Words: Joe Passmore / Twitter @JoePassmore
Monsters everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief as Bradley Cooper’s Lady Gaga-starring adaptation of the 1937 classic A Star is Born is finally released today (3 October).
As with its original (and the two previous remakes), it tells the story of talented “normal” girl Ally (Gaga), who is plucked from her everyday life by famous rock musician Jackson Maine (Cooper) in the hopes of sharing her gift with the world.
After a somewhat mixed reception to her Gaga-esque performance as The Countess in American Horror Story, all eyes are on Stefani Germanotta in her first leading role. And for the most part, she manages to keep up throughout, with her most affecting moments coming her musical performances, when she seems most at home and where she really manages to speak to the audience.
The standout performance however, comes from Cooper, whose disturbing and haunting portrayal of Jackson is a clear career highlight and testament to his refined acting ability.
The setting up of Ally’s life during the film’s first act feels genuine and authentic as it draws parallels to Gaga’s personal roots, with Ally first found performing in a drag bar (lead by Drag Race royalty Shangela Laquifa-Wadley). These scenes of lightness are highlights, as we get an untainted insight into Ally’s raw talent, what she stands for and who she really is, while at the same time foreshadowing just how lost Jackson is.
When the film eventually moves into its second half, it at times, becomes somewhat confused about what kind of story it wants to tell: Although it's positive to see some of the more stigmatised themes of drug and alcohol abuse tackled in a more thoughtful and honest way than Hollywood is usually used to, some of the themes that seemed more easily digestible in the 1937, 1954 and 1976 versions of the same film don’t quite fit into a 2018 landscape.
We are persuaded to romanticise and sympathise over a man and relationship with very few redeeming qualities and it is times like these where Hollywood’s distinct lack of working female directors becomes apparent, as the aspects of a story that revolve around women who are the victim of a destructive relationship may sometimes benefit from more of a female insight.
Cooper excels, however, in creating an intimate and truthful sense of place, in particular with the way he uniquely intertwines the film with the music it holds such a strong relationship with. Despite some brief, patronising undertones about how pop music is not “real music”, the film is an intricate and well-crafted understanding of what music means to its characters as well as the rest of the world.
The soundtrack is thoughtful, emotional, and difficult to imagine being brought to life by anybody other than Gaga and her diverse vocal talent, which feels right at home on the big screen.
A Star is born hits US and UK cinemas next Wednesday, 3 October.