After being stuck in development hell for five years, no one thought they’d ever see another rehash of A Star Is Born. Then Bradley Cooper signed on to star and direct, and brought along Lady Gaga instead of Beyoncé and set out to tell the musical tale for a fourth time. The question is, can you take a film that’s already been done three times before and add a new spin on it? Is a star really born in Lady Gaga? Is this film worth all the acclaim its been getting? The short answer is almost, but let’s get into it.
After premiering at the Venice Film Festival about a month ago, the film has been receiving a lot of media attention. It’s Bradley Cooper’s first directorial effort, Lady Gaga is appearing in a film for the first time, starring alongside Cooper no less, and to top it all off it made its premiere at a festival renowned for premiering serious Oscar contenders. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to catch this whilst I was in Venice, but I got my chance tonight at its opening at Eden Cinemas here in Malta.
As the film opens, we are first introduced to Cooper’s character Jackson Maine. Rugged, greasy, drunk and strumming away at his electric guitar to a crowd of people, Cooper very much suits the part previously portrayed by Kris Krsitofferson. And then we meet Ally, this time played by Lady Gaga. Bare-faced and working a job she obviously doesn’t like in order just to get by, we find out that she’s set to perform a show after her shift, and this is where the two paths cross. Jackson just looking for a drink, and Ally just doing her weekly show. Pretty run of the mill stuff so far, but once the film got into it’s stride I was very much invested, at least for the first act. The pacing was great, the chemistry between the two leads was believable and I was genuinely having a good time with some good songs.
The problems I had with this film started to rear their head as soon as the second act began, and it’s mainly down to the pacing, with some script issues here and there. We go from this quick and fun almost to the beat of a drum pacing, to what is almost melancholically slow for the duration of the second act. And despite this slow pacing, a lot of crucial character development felt rushed in this stage of the film, whereas typically this is where a film would take time to develop its characters. Cooper is great in his role, and it’s to be expected of the Oscar nominated actor, and Gaga is great for the most part too, but it’s here in the second act where her inexperience starts to come through. There are some more emotionally heavy moments present, and this is definitely where she suffers the most, even though suffers is a very harsh word to use.
However, once the third act begins and the film embarks on its conclusion, I was drawn back in. Gaga seemed to hit her stride again and there were less inconsistencies. What really rounded the film out for me was its final twenty minutes or so. It was here and in the first hour where I felt Cooper was at his best behind the camera, employing some simple yet beautiful cinematography and directorial confidence, and choosing to end the film in the way he did was a wise choice with a powerful outcome.
Overall, this is a remake very much done right. As a director Cooper more than proves himself here, and I’m curious to see what he’ll take on next. I can honestly say I was pleasantly surprised with Lady Gaga for the vast majority of the film, she had some scenes where a lot of other actresses would have done a lot worse, and I do hope she takes another film role some time soon. Trumping it’s 1976 predecessor in almost every way, Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga prove that not all remakes have to be shiftless efforts. Solid direction, good performances across the board, some guiltily cheesy moments and some decent songs, A Star Is Born almost lives up to its title.
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