I’ll be honest. I had never heard of A Star is Born before two weeks ago. But one quick Google search revealed that the upcoming film would include some of my favorite stars of today—Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Dave Chapelle… the list goes on.
Naturally, this one Google search thrust me into an internet wormhole where I discovered that this was the fourth rendition of the franchise, with the first premiering in 1937. If you’re like me, you’ll find any excuse to watch movies to avoid actual responsibilities, so of course I decided to watch both the 1937 and 2018 versions, to see just how one story could stand the test of time.
All versions of A Star is Born follow the same basic plot points. A talented young woman striving to make it big gets discovered by an older and successful, yet troubled man who not only jump starts her career, but falls in love with her as well.
Soon she starts to outshine him, and he turns to alcohol and substance abuse to cope. The point of no return occurs when she wins an award and is drunkenly interrupted by him during her acceptance speech. She decides to trade in a life of fame and celebrity to better take care of the man who helped get her there. However, an unexpected turn of events seals this franchise as a tragic melodrama.
Let’s face it. Remakes are hardly ever good. And they hardly ever do better, commercially or critically, than their original counterparts. But somehow this latest installment, directed by and starring Cooper as troubled country–rock star Jackson Maine, and Gaga as Ally, a struggling pop singer/cater waitress, has defied all odds. It manages to take all the great plot elements of an age–old story and modernize them into a relevant and moving tragedy worth revisiting.
There are a few things that really make this film a convincing and heartfelt revival of an otherwise overdone and outdated anecdote—the first being an electric chemistry between Gaga and Cooper. When their characters meet at the beginning of the film, they instantaneously click. Their interactions throughout the movie and the growth of their relationship were so natural and compelling, they left me wishing for a real–life Gaga–Cooper romance.
Next, the soundtrack. I've been a huge Gaga fan since the beginning of her career and fully expected her to deliver kick–ass musical performances throughout this film. To say that my expectations were exceeded would be an understatement. Gaga offered consistent, goosebump–inducing vocals throughout the film that were only amplified by the fact that they were all recorded live, something she insisted on while filming. She also conveyed a certain level of seasoned professionalism that was as admirable as Cooper’s newfound, and equally as moving, bluesy-rock persona. The songs are catchy, but well–written enough that they don’t lose their integrity. I've been listening to ‘Look What I Found’ non–stop for the past week.
A Star is Born is historically about love, success and the entertainment industry. Cooper’s rendition certainly relays those themes, but it also offers a modern and comprehensive take on substance abuse, addiction and mental illnesses—something that previous adaptations don’t tackle. Cooper’s character, Jackson, makes his struggles known throughout the movie, attributing them to a harsh and toxic upbringing, and eventually seeks help with Ally’s support. This movie excels at portraying addictive, and sometimes destructive behavior as symptoms of real sickness, rather than flaws in character. This thoughtful portrayal effectively highlights the difficulties that many people struggle with daily. It's indicative of the film’s modernity and sensitivity.
This movie is a beautiful reincarnation of a worn–out franchise, preserving the timeless aspects of its predecessors, while offering a fresh perspective. It’s a painfully raw and human film that unapologetically shows the very best and worst life has to offer. It’s two hours of laughing, crying, ‘aww’–ing, and foot–tapping that you don’t want to miss.