After getting two remakes of the famed 1937 classic, do we really need another version of A Star Is Born? Well, while the old story remains the same, director/actor/co-writer Bradley Cooper still manages to make his rendition both modern and timely.
Also, Bradley Cooper may be one of the best actors of his generation but with A Star Is Born, he proves that as an actor, he can be an even better director. It goes without saying that his performance as fading country star Jackson Maine is terrific. However, what makes his direction even better is how he puts such emphasis on letting the camera act as a storyteller.
The two main lovers, fading country star Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) and rising musician Ally (Lady Gaga), are able to express their love through dialogue. But where the turbulent nature of their romance becomes captured is mostly on stage, the place where they feel at home. In fact, one of the film’s best sequences is a montage of Jackson and Ally going on tour. The song “Maybe It’s Time” sung by Jackson plays over it and as the concert crowds really fall for Ally, Jackson keeps reaching for a bottle of alcohol, showing how Ally’s rise to fame before becoming a mainstream pop star has taken a personal toll on him.
That montage is also an encapsulation of the song playing over it. The lyrics in “Maybe It’s Time” talk about trying to change your ways and finding the willpower to change. As we can tell, it’s hard for Jackson to even find the willpower. Plus, because the stage is where he feels at home and can separate his fame from his personal life, him drinking on stage is an indication of his personal demons invading his success.
The way Cooper directs concert scenes like the “Maybe It's Time” montage and the one where Jackson and Ally perform “Shallow” for the first time is so powerful it's as if the camera was shot from his heart. But while he's the film's heart, the woman that is its soul is Lady Gaga.
Inevitably, Lady Gaga nails the singing but what’s even more impressive is the way she acts out her singing and uses that technique as a tool for the character’s three-dimensionality. Ally is someone who is rather timid yet presents herself with a bullish exterior used as a defense mechanism to avoid feeling hurt. But when she starts performing on the stage, she demonstrates feelings of euphoria and pride. The minute she sings “Shallow” in front of a huge crowd, Ally quickly realizes that the great star potential that she’s been hiding up until that very moment.
Of course, credit for letting the camera act as a storyteller should go to cinematographer Matthew Libatique who constantly uses tints of red to capture the film's fiery yet melodramatic feeling. Although, the scenes where the color red is used very prominently are the sequences where Jackson and Ally are performing.
As you can probably tell by my review, the performing sequences are the biggest highlight of the movie. Not saying everything else falls flat but the script and the rest of the editing can't quite measure up to the musical scenes which are where A Star Is Born reaches its highest pitch.
The story involving the rise and fall of fame provides plenty of familiarity while most of the supporting actors aren’t given enough screen time to really shine. Even Sam Elliott, who brilliantly plays Jackson's older brother/manager, has only a handful of scenes.
Despite A Star Is Born treading familiar ground in terms of its storytelling and having some underutilized talent, it still proves to be effective. Even if it isn't on my “Best Of The Year” list, it is quite an impressive directorial feat from Bradley Cooper.