Remakes are all the rage these days in Hollywood. As a fan of the previous incarnations of A Star is Born, I questioned whether there was a need for yet another film production. But Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga completely won me over. While you may wonder why these two are acting, remember that he studied at the Actors Studio (and a four-time Oscar nominee), and she was trained at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and received a Golden Globe nomination for her acting work on American Horror Story: Hotel.
What most captivated me was not the songs, which were incredible, but the performances. They were nuanced, layered, complex and compelling. As Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, he comes out, swings, and hits it out of the park. The care he gave to the story and the film ensured this passion project can stand alongside the prior three versions.
What I love most about each iteration of the film is how they reflect the era in which they were made. The 1939 version was based on the Movie Studio Star system. The 1954 version was during the height of the movie musicals, and there was no greater star to embody that than Dorothy herself — Judy Garland. In the 1976 version, Barbra Streisand changed the film to reflect the women’s liberation movement and placed the leads as rock stars and songwriters — something to which audiences would relate.
The 2018 film smartly reinvents the characters as pop stars, giving the audience highly-relatable characters. Gaga’s Ally is the pop star forced into a tightly-controlled image and she clashes with her manager, who wants her to be meticulous and a carbon copy of every other pop star out there. This conflict is central to the two leads and drives a rift between them.
Each film follows the same basic plot. An aging and alcoholic legendary performer — Fredric March, James Mason, Kris Kristofferson and now Bradley Cooper — all fall for a young woman who is on the rise. Through the course of the films they each fall in love and ask the women to marry them — the notable exception being where Barbra’s Ester asks Kris’s John to marry her — a twist for a strong female character in that era. Each of the men, deeply-flawed, succumb to their own drunken demons and ruin the most important night of their respective star’s night — be it at the Oscars or the Grammys.
Throughout their struggles the lovers never wavered and they stood by each other through it all. In the current film, you can clearly see the pain, hurt and anguish they go through as they try to find their way back to normalcy. Ally’s manager convinces Jackson that the only way for Ally to succeed is for him to step back and let her rise. In their last scene together, he realizes that he is holding her back and while he agrees to meet her at her last concert to sing their song, “Shallow,” together they never will. Tragedy propels Ally to take control of her image and be the star she always wanted to be.
This film is an intricate work of art from the cinematography to the music to the incredible scene work. The chaotic camera work at the beginning shows the emotional state of Bradley’s Jackson, a drunk singer suffering from hearing loss that would stop his career. When he meets Ally, she is performing at a drag bar. Their connection is immediate and intense. Even as she pushes against him she falls for him. They make a remarkable team, both tender and explosive.
Another thing I really enjoyed about the promotion of this film was that some of the trailers were just scenes. It was a daring move, but one that works because that is where the film shines. The scenes between Bradley and Gaga are rich and deep.
Their onscreen relationship is volatile and romantic and very, very real. You can relate to them both and root for each of them, which is a measure of success in itself. Even if you’ve already seen and loved the previous versions, treat your senses and go see this remake. I highly recommend it!