A STAR IS BORN Review: 10 (Hollywood at its Best)
A STAR IS BORN is a new romantic musical produced and directed by Bradley Cooper, in his directorial debut. Cooper wrote the screenplay with Will Fetters and Eric Roth and the film stars Cooper, Lady Gaga, Andrew Dice Clay, Dave Chappelle, and Sam Elliott. Cooper plays Jackson Main—a hard drinking rock star who discovers a new talent in Ally, played by Lady Gaga. Ally is a lounge singer by night and a reluctant talent who has been turned away by the music industry for years. When Jackson stumbles into her performance, both of their lives change instantly—and forever.
I don’t care for most musicals—I am on record. However, recent postmodern musicals like ONCE, BEGIN AGAIN, and this year’s HEARTS BEAT LOUD offer a pop music alternative to the more historical musical approach: random people belting out into song from conversations, with perfect rhyme and syncopation, while instantly knowing detailed choreography. Instead, A STAR IS BORN is a story about singers and songwriters—so the infusion of their music into the narrative makes sense and also works to propel story, conflict, and even character development. That certainly works here in this film with a stunning soundtrack written by Gaga and Lukas Nelson (son of country music singer Willie Nelson). Filled with rousing ballads, love songs, and funky pop numbers, the music carries the same wide range and scope that the story offers.
Having said that, Bradley Cooper has quietly become one of the true top talents of Hollywood. Not only is his performance here memorable (he seems to be channeling some Kris Kristofferson from the 1976 version) his directing is downright remarkable. Lady Gaga is an absolute joy to witness in this film—portraying Ally as a tough street-smart woman who is also shy and resistant to fame. Both of these characters move through arcs that are altogether satisfying and heartbreaking. The chemistry between these two is kinetic and compelling. This film is also filled with some standout supporting performances with Dave Chappelle, Sam Elliott, and a big surprise in Andrew Dice Clay who stars as Ally’s father Lorenzo. Clay brings a surprising understated performance as a protective father who, too, never really got his shot at music’s fame and fortune. The film itself follows these characters over a long period of time—years perhaps—but avoids trying to hold the audience’s hand to tell them where or *when* they are in the relationship they are witnessing. Instead, the film is content to just let the audience be a voyeur, or even a fan, and watch these two living their lives, their love, and their performances.
A STAR IS BORN is Hollywood at its very best—compelling performances in a story filled with emotional highs and lows alongside a memorable soundtrack. It is rare that an old cynic like me gets goosebumps. This film gave me those chills a few times over. That earns my highest recommendation.