Film & TV

Reviews: A Star is Born

With Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut proving a smash hit in theatres across the globe, four Quench contributors share their thoughts on A Star is Born:

Whilst remakes have become a recent growing trend in the film industry, few have garnered as much fervent attention as Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut: A Star is Born – which is somewhat surprising, considering that Cooper’s adaptation is the fourth edition of the film.

On the other hand, it isn’t as surprising when you consider the cast. Both Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga are extraordinary talents in their own right, but together, they are unstoppable.  Lady Gaga is an exceptional woman of such flare and character, and with such an exuberant prevalence within the last decade of pop culture, it is reasonable to see how a realistic portrayal of a bare-faced struggling singer, would be a demanding task for both actor and director. It is, therefore, a testament to both Cooper’s direction and Gaga’s theatrical ability that there is a clear separation between the two; Gaga’s performance is so authentic, and worlds away from her unsurprising lead role in American Horror Story: Hotel.

A Star is Born follows the relationship between Jackson Maine, an alcoholic country singer, and his young protégé Ally, whom he discovers performing in a drag bar.  The concept of Gaga and Cooper as a couple initially sounds a little bizarre, yet the chemistry between the two is electric. From the pair’s chance meeting, Jackson is entranced, and relentlessly encourages Ally to sing. It is difficult to differentiate between Gaga and Cooper, and Ally and Jackson; Ally’s admission that no one takes her seriously as a singer because “no one likes the way I look” is heart-breaking, but to what extent is this Gaga speaking directly? The supportive role that Jackson takes is a cinematic translation of Gaga and Cooper’s own professional relationship.

Unsurprisingly for a film starring one of the world’s biggest pop stars, its soundtrack is stellar. The duo’s first live performance is an unforgettable scene of raw emotion, as Jackson encourages Ally to perform her incredibly catchy song ‘The Shallow’. In this scene, Gaga absolutely shines; with only echoes of ‘Joanne’, the difference between Ally’s and Gaga’s styles allows Gaga to fully embrace herself as a ‘serious’ actor. This scene alludes to the film in general: Jackson, supportive of Ally’s career, initially steps aside for her to shine before supporting her in a harmony. It is therefore devastating to watch everything spiral out of control and that as one star is born, another star dies; A Star is Born, like 2016’s La La Land deals with the cost of success against a relationship.

The film’s ending, however, is quite anti-climatic and robs both Lady Gaga of an otherwise potentially Academy Award-worthy performance, and the audience of closure. We watch in blissful ignorance as the couple meet and their relationship blossoms, and in abject horror as Jackson’s addiction consumes him and their lives spiral out of control. Unfortunately, the ending lacks the emotional weight that the film had previously established well throughout.

This is a film that both makes you want to fall in love, but also reminds you that falling in love is often one of the most bittersweet things in the world. Whom back in 2010, would realistically believe that Phil from The Hangover and ‘that singer that wore the meat dress’ would come together to make one of the most authentic and heartfelt films of 2018?

By Rebecca Fisher-Jackson

 

From the ‘Hangover’ trilogy to the director’s seat, Bradley Cooper has achieved something great after taking on both the role of actor and director in his debut film, A Star is Born. Showcasing a more modern take on the 1970s classic, Cooper’s remake will no doubt win many awards, as it has captured the hearts of the modern audience and highlights important issues such as alcoholism, mental health and the uncontrollable pace of the ruthless music industry.

After admitting to suffering with alcoholism himself, it is evident that Cooper is passionate about his role as ‘Jack’, as the battle with drink that the rock star faces mirrors elements of the actor’s own experiences. With that being said, the character of Jack is extremely complex, yet likeable, as a sense of vulnerability can be unearthed from the mask of his tough, southern, biker appearance.

From the outset it is evident that Jack, a famous rock star, is beginning to age and is not satisfied with his life. In the opening scene, he swigs on a bottle of gin in the back seat of his car and requests that his driver take him to the nearest bar, as he stays out most nights to avoid going home. Thus, the audience can identify from the start that he has a problem with alcohol. Yet one of the most powerful features of Cooper’s performance is that he doesn’t act drunk throughout the film; his performance illustrates how normalised alcoholism becomes to those affected. In fact, he puts on a performance so realistic that the audience themselves put his issues into the background as they become engrossed with the blossoming relationship between the troubled rock legend and the shy songstress, Ally.

Lady Gaga’s performance of Ally is impeccable, leaving a lasting impression which makes you forget that she once wore a meat dress to the VMAs and sung Poker Face. However, this isn’t surprising, considering the character of Ally must resonate with her own tough experiences of the music industry.

Alongside tackling important issues such as mental health, the growing relationship between Jack and Ally is central to the film. They initially meet at a drag bar (Ally being the only female performer) with Ally encapsulating Jack with her stunning performance and shortly after, being introduced to him by the club manager. But this isn’t a typical romantic movie with the protagonists falling for each other at first sight. This is a story between two individuals who grow to love each other after taking the time to understand one another by learning about each other’s’ rich pasts. Jack has the success that Ally, an aspiring singer, desires, yet he isn’t content with his life and in fact we see how they both grow together. He helps her with her struggling career, whilst she gives him a purpose in life.

My only criticism of the film would be that it is extremely long and repetitive at times, however it is never boring. By the end, you understand why Cooper has done this as it really does develop the audience’s connection with Jack and Ally.

A Star is Born was a powerful watch, with some spectacular acting from both Cooper and Gaga, which is bound to leave a lasting impression on its audience.

By Susannah Griffin

 

A Star Is Born is Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, working alongside Lady Gaga, who was brave enough to follow in the footsteps of icons such as Janet Gaynor (1937) and Barbra Streisand (1976), who aced the role of the newbie some years ago.  These prior versions of the movie each took a fresh spin on the same plot, by updating the film’s outlook on the theatrical and music industry.

This cover was risky and raised a lot of questions for moviegoers and critics alike; why would Bradley Cooper choose to begin his directional career with the third remake of A Star Is Born?  And why would he pitch Lady Gaga against the remarkable actresses who played ‘Ally’ before her? Talk about playing with fire.

From the start, Cooper grabs your attention in the same way that Fredric March (1937) and Kris Kristofferson (1976) did. Only this time, he plays the role of Jackson Maine, a cynical country rocker with a love for booze and the high life. Jackson is in a depressive state, which has been inherited from his roots as reflected through his relationship with Bobby (Sam Elliott), his older brother. Noodles (Dave Chappelle), Jackson’s friend, also thinks that not even true love can ever save the rocker’s soul.  Whilst one of Jackson’s song lyrics contend that ‘maybe it’s time to let the old ways die’, he is granted a new purpose through the discovery of Ally in a drag bar, as she sings La Vie En Rose.  The film follows the fizzing romance between the fading veteran and the upcoming star.

A Star Is Born may not leave all previous versions in its dust, but actor-cum-director Cooper definitely brings a fresh approach to the story. The authenticity of the songs that Cooper and Gaga wrote together with other musicians (such as Mark Ronson, Jason Isbell and Lukas Nelson), along with the former’s intimate direction with the camera, helps to bring the movie to life. It is also refreshing to see that whilst Gaga (real name Stefani Germanotta), is best known for her visual extravaganza, the movie has nothing to do with the Gaga world. There are no meat dresses for her to hide behind here. Instead, she stars as a woman who goes against the people who ‘love the way she sounds but not the way she looks’ and chases her dream with her own rules.

By the end of the movie, Cooper eases your tears up to a point where you realize you look like a mess. Cooper will make you ‘take another look’ in the artistic industry by illustrating how people like Jackson and Ally are creative in spite of their destructive tendencies and not because of them.

By Lida Kritikou

 

No matter your prior views on Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born is undeniably captivating.

The story follows the romance between singer Jackson Maine (Cooper), and aspiring singer Ally (Gaga). It is an emotional roller coaster that immerses you into the unglamorous side of Hollywood.

This reworking of the original Barbra Streisand movie gives a completely modern twist to the story. The movie was almost a testament to both Cooper and Gaga’s careers, and how the pressures of stardom have affected them and the people around them. Maine finds Ally when his stardom is at its decline. Drug abuse and depression consume him, while Ally’s career takes the opposite turn. After being discovered by Maine, Ally’s singing career progresses, but only through industry conditioning.

Both Cooper and Gaga’s performances were so raw that I felt as if I was glimpsing into someone’s life. Every aspect was captured, from the cringe-worthy moments, to the depiction of the real heart-breaking toll that addiction takes on a relationship. I found myself gasping and crying with the audience in the theatre, where everyone was completely hooked and invested to the story. The film’s soundtrack was also so infectious that I found myself singing ‘In the Shallow’ for the next few days. For a directorial and acting debut, this movie does not disappoint.

By Maya El-Moussaoui

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