When I was in high school, my Greek literature professor used to tell me, “When you're rushing towards your failure, the gods accelerate your pace.”
She was definitely referencing my poor grades back then, but at the same time, this saying would be the perfect pitch for the upcoming, and forth remake, of the original Hollywood-esque love story that dates back to 1932: A Star is Born.
Featuring Bradley Cooper (in his debut behind the camera) in the role of country-western star Jackson Maine and worldwide famous pop-star Lady Gaga in the role of waitress/wannabe singer Ally the story follows the two similar but opposite paths of the star falling into oblivion and the regular girl becoming famous.
The story picks up moments after Cooper’s character has finished his umpteenth gig. As a rock-country-western legend, Jackson Maine who looks to be in his mid-40s occupies that grey area between legend and nostalgia while the ghost of a new generation of new musicians and artists is just around the corner. With bad habits such as binge-drinking and the use of pills and cocaine, Jackson is still doing stadium tours. He’s also suffering from encroaching deafness and tinnitus, which periodically bring him close to anxiety attacks and temper tantrums. His brother, played by a super Sam Elliott, works as his manager and personal health-keeper every time Jackson finished a night with too much alcohol.
Out of booze after a show one night, Jackson pulls over to what turns out to be a gay bar during a drag queen night. Ally used to work there and keeps coming back to sing on the stage, being the only female non-drag singer the boss let perform on stage.
The extraordinarily talented Ally impresses random spectator Jackson Maine with a killer version of La Vie En Rose with really kicks off the plot.
The first half of the movie plays out brilliantly as the love between the two blossoms both on and off stage. It leaves all the three previous versions in the dust mostly thanks to Gaga’s attitude towards the character. The chemistry between Cooper and Gaga is tangible throughout the whole movie, but in the first half, it feels less fuzzy, more natural and very light-hearted.
As the story goes, Cooper’s character becomes more and more miserable with his bad habits taking over the relationship, whilst Ally starts climbing the stairs of fame, singlehandedly launched by her lover during a concert. Jackson, in fact, gets her up on stage to duet with him a song she wrote and sung to him the night before in a parking lot.
The popularity of the two characters grows and decreases relentlessly and in an opposite way as Jackson falls deeply in love with her but cannot sustain the rhythm of his life anymore; by contrast, Gaga’s character fully becomes a star as she goes on tour by herself and gets nominated for three awards.
The second half of the movie is arguably less seductive as the two characters fall victims of a destructive path neither love nor sacrifices can prevent from happening.
Jackson’s persona is charming and relatable even in his lowest points, whilst Ally is sharp, mesmeric and sparkling. It taps deeply into what it means depression for movie and rock stars and gives us a very grounded, down to earth insight that the previous instalments failed to do.
A special note must be done to the outstanding performance by Bradley Cooper who managed to live performances all the concerts in the movie, who successfully learnt to play piano and guitar in less than a year and a half and who — according to Gaga herself — surprised her with his voice.
“Oh, my God, Bradley, you have a tremendous voice,” Lady Gaga remembers saying to Cooper inane interview with Vogue.
Gaga recalls saying: “He sings from his gut, from the nectar! I knew instantly: This guy could play a rock star. And I don’t think there are a lot of people in Hollywood who can. That was the moment I knew this film could be something truly special.”
Since the dawn of cinema, ordinary people have always dreamt about becoming famous often by accident and this movie, coming in an age where the concept of being a star is even more universal and sometimes more reachable, becomes the perfect manifesto for what could be a massive hit both in theatres and in the awards season.