The basic premise of A Star Is Born truly does have the potential to be timeless: a romance between two individuals as one rises and one falls, with tear-jerking consequences. However, it would be understandable to think that remaking it not twice, but three times may remove some of its power, and render it a cliché.
In an unlikely twist though, this third remake, by a man who has never before directed a feature film, and starring a pop star turned actress, is better than anyone could have predicted. Even from the first trailer, I wasn’t blown away, concerned the film would be an overly sentimental vanity project for Lady Gaga, easily forgotten once I’d left the cinema. But how wrong I was.
I’ve given a brief overview already, but I’ll quickly sum up the premise regardless: Jackson Maine, an alcoholic country singer, is losing his passion when he discovers the fiery, talented Ally at a drag bar, and decides to use his platform to make her a star. But the core of the film is relationship that builds between the two, and how it eventually comes crashing down. Cooper takes his time here – there’s no rushing to the more spectacular scenes of her long awaited fame. We see Jack and Ally discuss their insecurities, get into a rather anti-climactic fight, watch each other perform with awe, and meet each other’s families before any of the major plot points kick off. Many critics have lauded the second and third acts, but in my opinion they would be nothing without the quiet musings of the opening 45 minutes.
Of course, none of this would be nearly as engaging without the beautifully careful performances of Cooper and Gaga. Whilst the latter gains more of the spotlight as a character on the rise, and receives some of the most emotionally overwhelming moments, the former transforms into a lovable yet tragic figure, the inevitability of his fall permeating the entire performance. But it is in their scenes together that the two shine – I can’t think of another onscreen couple with more genuine chemistry from the past decade of cinematic romance. You believe in their love, and this is what elevates the film to the status it now holds.
And thankfully, Cooper’s direction is fairly grounded and unfussy – not overly conventional by any means, but quiet enough to allow the dialogue and musical numbers their own space. After seeing Damien Chazelle’s First Man, which was maybe too ambitious with its dynamic cinematography and editing, this was a welcome change of pace.
You may not consider yourself a fan of musicals, or even of predictable Hollywood romance in general. But if you ever see one film of this particular genre, make it this most recent iteration of A Star Is Born – which was born, funnily enough, as an instant classic.
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