This movie is a star and birth has never been more beautiful. For those unsure about going, let me reassure you: this is not a musical, it’s a film about music. It’s a love story, but it’s not a romance. It has singers acting and actors singing, but it turns out both Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga are triple-threat legends (yes, Lady Gaga dances in the film).
Gaga’s casting was a controversial choice, and one director, writer, and star Cooper had to fight hard to get approved. He saw her perform La Vie En Rose at a private cancer benefit and knew she had to be cast. Perhaps realising audiences would feel as dubious as the studio about her performing ability, our second scene with Ally (Gaga) has her belting out La Vie Rn Rose to an audience containing a drunk, enamoured Jackson Maine (Cooper). We’re immediately sold.
This is their first meeting and the start of a love story. Ally and Maine fall in love and as she accompanies him on his tour, her own musical star rises. He falls further into substance addiction, and she starts to fall away from her musical principles, but the two remain deeply in love throughout the film. That’s why this is a true love story: there’s no storming out, or petty arguments, or any other hallmarks of a romantic drama. They’re two people with the maturity and love to give each other room to blossom – ultimately to a tragic degree.
The villain of the piece, if there is one, would be Ally’s talent agent Rez (Rafi Gavron). Rez asks Ally to dye her hair, use backup dancers, and leave Maine behind when she goes on tour. He’s a prick, and might be responsible for the ultimate devastation of the film – but the film wastes no time on painting a villain, instead focusing on how the starring duo reacts to the comments and actions of others.
This is the fourth iteration of the film, but its just as impactful now as it was in 1937. Cooper spent three years preparing to make A Star is Born, and he knew the film had to be an intimate portrait of a relationship and music that was also a grand, theatrical event.
Cooper and Gaga both wrote and performed their own songs in the film with the help of Lukas Nelson (son of Willie). Gaga refused to lip-sync music while filming, and as a result, Cooper and Gaga appeared at 2017’s Glastonbury Festival, California’s Stagecoach Country Music Festival, and Coachella to record scenes for the film. It works. The thrill of the crowd is infectious, and the deep rumble of Cooper’s opening strums and lines will have you poised on your seats ready for the magic to happen.
As a side note, Cooper’s band in the film is played by Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Neil Young’s regular backing band.
The film also features Dave Chappelle, Sam Elliot, Shangela Wadley, and Willam Belli, all character actors turning out their drama chops. Cooper’s team cast bravely, and it pays off.
A Star Is Born is out in New Zealand cinemas today.