October 3, 2018

CINEMA | Bradley Cooper Finds 'A Star is Born'

"It was you I idolized."
Bradley Cooper Lady Gaga | A Star is Born

First-time director Bradley Cooper's remake of A Star is Born is an astonishing contemporary update of a familiar Hollywood story co-starring Lady Gaga in a shining performance. It's remarkable how ably and confidently Cooper tells the musical romantic melodrama of a self-destructive alcoholic rock star and the rise of his talented muse into a pop star.

Cooper wastes no time getting right to the meat of the story in crafting his Jackson Maine and Gaga's Ally with a quick meet-cute then bonding them together splendidly. The first half is simply incredible in balancing haunting, naturalistic musical performances with scenes of raw emotions. It's a near-perfect start to a whirlwind romance of someone's fall and another's rise meeting at a perfect moment in time and built on some incredible chemistry from the two.

What's always interesting about films directed by actors are the cast they choose and Cooper's choices are no different. The third-billed Andrew Dice Clay as Ally's loud but proud, dreamer father adds an authentic sheen of the rags to riches story while contrasting Maine's indifference to stardom.

Bradley Cooper Lady Gaga | A Star is Born

A gravelly as ever Sam Elliott is easily the film's backbone Jackson's much older half-brother, manager, and essentially caretaker. Cooper mirrors his physical performance on Elliott's trademark mannerisms and brings the classic storytelling elements together with his gruff but stoic words. Cooper and Elliot's interactions as tortured brothers really informs Jackson's backstory just as we fall in love with Ally's potential.

It's a surprisingly intimate film in construction from cinematographer Matthew Libatique with really no wide shots, shot mostly in close-ups, and featuring naturalistic backstage sets including recreations of Saturday Night Live, the Grammy Awards, and real music festivals. There's a gorgeous, intimate look to the film that sends chills the first time the duo perform "The Shallow" on stage.

Cooper's A Star is Born works as a great cover of a classic tale. It sounds like the definition of prestige drama without any of the baggage. His and Gaga's unlikely but undeniable chemistry power the film's momentum into real drama just as the immersive music performances lifts the entire feel of the stakes.

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