Written by J.T. Johnson
DIRECTOR: Bradley Cooper
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Matthew Libatique
WRITERS: Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters
When I walked in to see “A Star Is Born” from director and star Bradley Cooper, I knew that the music would be good. After all, not only did Cooper research his musician friends, he cast the absolutely talented Lady Gaga as his character’s one true love. However, it was the love story that I was actually worried about.
I had never seen any of the previous versions of this film (it’s been made three times previously), so I was just hoping that the love story would not be your usual mushy romantic tale. Thankfully, Cooper tells a real and very raw love story. Jackson Maine (Cooper) is a very successful singer and songwriter when the film starts, but unfortunately he also has a major addiction to alcohol and pills.
Ally (Lady Gaga) is a talented singer that has yet to have her big break. She sings in a local drag bar, she works as a waitress and she has been told by those in the industry that while her voice is great, her looks are not. One night, Jackson stumbles into the drag bar for a drink and witnesses her talents as a singer and is immediately attracted to her.
Soon, they bond over music and Jackson takes Ally on the road with him. This is where their love story really kicks off and we see genuine chemistry between the film’s two leads. Both Cooper and Gaga give award worthy performances on their own. Cooper shines as the troubled singer who is also suffering from his demons and even though he has found love with Ally, those demons don’t just go away and add extra tension to their relationship.
Ally, on the other hand, is dealing with the fact that once the world finally sees her, she is a rising star. She has a producer that wants to make her a product while Ally just doesn’t want to lose being true to herself and her music. This is also a source of tension in her relationship with Jackson and the filmmakers handle this story damn near flawlessly.
There’s also an impressive supporting cast with Dave Chappelle showing up briefly as one of Jackson’s close childhood friends. The real standout, though, is Sam Elliott as Bobby Maine, Jackson’s much older brother who was a singer himself but he eventually became a manager for his admittedly more talented brother. They have a rocky relationship that I was just as interested in as the main love story.
The songs in the film are pretty solid for the most part. Cooper enlisted the aid of Lukas Nelson (son of legendary performer Willie Nelson) and they co-wrote several songs together. Nelson also worked extremely close with Gaga on several songs. The song that could be considered the movie’s main theme is “Shallow” and if you’re hooked by this duet between Cooper and Gaga, then you’ll enjoy the rest of the movie’s soundtrack.
I’m sure if I thought long and hard, I could think of something negative to say about this movie. As it is, though, Cooper did a fantastic job with his directorial debut. There is a solid love story that never ignores the bad that comes along with all of the good stuff in a relationship. If ever a movie was an emotional rollercoaster, it was this one. More importantly, and mostly due to the chemistry between Cooper and Gaga, “A Star Is Born” proves to be one of the best films of the year.