I am sitting at the very back row of seats. The lights dim, and applauding crowd crescendos. My pulse races as the classic Warner Bros Pictures sequence signals the start of—what critics are calling—the best drama of the year. Suddenly, a soaring electric guitar pierces through the cinema hall and Bradley Cooper appears on the screen, maintaining Hendrix-like sounds as jams to a huge festival audience. The camera work is jolted and fast-paced, mimicking the aggressive accompanying song Black Eyes. But it isn’t long before the abrasive, loud rumbling is traded in for the silence of an empty car ride, as he heads to the closest bar in his endless quest for alcohol. Meanwhile, in an echoing bathroom, Lady Gaga makes her big screen debut arguing over-the-phone with a past-lover. Stomping out of the stall, frustrated, she returns to work. She steps on stage and sings a hauntingly beautiful rendition of Somewhere Over The Rainbow as the film title appears.
A Star Is Born is the fourth telling of the classic love story—and it may be the best. This time the narrative follows dwindling rocker Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper), as he meets and falls in love with the soon-to-be pop sensation Ally (Lady Gaga). The film is soundtracked by a stunning array of original songs, save for the burlesque-styled cover of La Vie En Rose. Bradley Cooper rocks out on tracks like Alibi and offers a softer side to his character’s persona on Maybe It’s Time. However, it’s the Gaga song renditions that turn this film into a musical phenomenon. Tracks like Remember Us This Way, Is That Alright and the heart-wrenching I’ll Never Love Again are refreshingly authentic love songs that carry the film’s story long after the theatre has closed its doors.
The sensitive way addiction was dealt with by Cooper was not only extremely apt but entirely accurate. Its influence on every aspect of one’s life was touchingly dealt with, and the tragedy of its repercussions was expressed without theatrics, over-sensationalism or crudeness. One issue I had was the overt repetition of Jackson’s addictive tendencies—but this was necessary to achieve validity.
Cooper, who also directed the film, cleverly uses a wide range of cinematic colour palettes to illustrate the intensely complicated array of emotions and themes explored in this two-hour long feature. Each scene was purposeful and constructed organically, with lingering moments of silence. A well-written script complimented the small-yet-vital movements of both Cooper and Gaga, creating a realistic portrayal. While we, the audience, seemed to be intrusive in times of small conversation and intimates, the two didn’t appear intruded upon. In fact, it was the realistic and natural acting of the pair that shone in this film. As this was the first feature film for Gaga, the pressure was mounting regarding her abilities. But having received the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Limited Series for her role as The Countess in American Horror Story: Hotel, as well as featuring in a string of extended music video films—Gaga had it in the bag.
The accompanying soundtrack is, in itself, a brilliant accomplishment that tells the story just as elegantly as the film. The original songs written by Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga and a small team of writers are a mix of hard rockers, pop-rock, and electro-pop tracks beautifully intertwining with the dialogue excerpts from the film. The album vividly reminds listeners of every moment of A Star is Born and seems to play a supercut inside their minds.
As both Cooper and Gaga have said, it isn’t until the final frame that a star is really born. But as the credits and the tears roll, two stars are reborn. Firstly, Cooper redefines himself as not only one of Hollywood’s top actors, but as one of the most tactful and attention-to-detail directors today. Secondly, Gaga achieves another career peak as she reminds the world of her musical prowess and apprises us of her Oscar-worthy acting abilities. A Star Is Born is a triumph and one of the most beautifully-articulated films of the century. With universal critical acclaim, huge box-office success, and a soundtrack forecasted to be one of this year’s top sellers, the only thing left is awards season—and it would be no surprise to see this film take home all five major academy awards.
A Star is Born is out in cinemas now.