Main cast: Bradley Cooper (Jackson Maine), Lady Gaga (Ally Campana), Sam Elliott (Bobby Maine), Dave Chappelle (George “Noodles” Stone), Andrew Dice Clay (Lorenzo Campana), Anthony Ramos (Ramon), Michael Harney (Wolfie), Rafi Gavron (Rez Gavron)
Director: Bradley Cooper
Good lord, this is the – what, third remake of the movie of the same name? Sadly, aside from updating the soundtrack and changing the way a prominent main character goes out towards the end, A Star Is Born still offers the same old tale of an alcoholic musician whose budding relationship with a fresh-faced starlet on the rise is threatened by his destructive behavior. Really, kids, drink in moderation or you’ll never get laid or find love in a fun, fulfilling way.
Interesting, though, why this time around the folks behind this movie chimped out on progressiveness virtue signalling like Hollywood has been doing these few years by not making Ally a drag queen. Jackson Maine, our alcoholic country singer, stumbles into a drag bar during his wandering after a show, and is stuck by Ally Campana’s performance. Despite the fact that Lady Gaga has the right appearance to convincingly play a man in drag, the people behind this movie makes Ally a woman – the only woman that matters in the entire drag bar, conveniently enough.
Anyway, it looks like Hollywood isn’t progressive enough to go that out of the norm despite its constant chest-beating, so another heterosexual romance it is. These two bond and manage to fall in love, despite Jackson blacking out at key moments such as before they successfully move to third base. There are family issues on his part, and their fragile relationship threatens to fracture when Ally is spotted by Rez Gavron, a record producer, and Jackson’s jealousy and insecurities begin to show.
I have initial reservations about Lady Gaga since her performance in American Horror Story was pretty flat but she’s actually solid here, much to my pleasant surprise. Of course, you can argue that playing a singer may not be too much of a stretch for her but come on, credit where it’s due: she nails it here and hits all the right notes. Ally isn’t some sickly sweet one-dimensional ingénue here – she is willing to tell Jackson off when she’s pushed to her limit and she also has some some believable sass and fighting spirit in her. I like how her career trajectory is not entirely tied to Jackson; in fact, Jackson ends up holding her back when it comes to being the best she can be. Nonetheless, I can understand why she’s willing to make compromises for him, as Lady Gaga’s solid performance makes her character’s feelings for Jackson real enough to me.
Bradley Cooper, I feel, plays his role of a self-destructive fellow a little too safely and neatly, as Jackson seems more like a nice guy who just happens to go “Woo! Alcoholism!” when the plot needs some internal conflicts to keep things interesting. He never comes off like a larger-than-life tragic figure that is demanded by a story of this sort. Mr Cooper seems more focused on maintaining his country twang and talking in a baritone in order to come off as this “Ooh, I’m a hero in a Nicholas Sparks novel!” sort. There is something contrived about his too-careful performance, I feel. I’d have loved if he had just let himself go a bit, bring out his Rocket Raccoon, and put on a more messy performance appropriate for a big fuck-up that Jackson is supposed to be.
Still, Mr Cooper and Lady Gaga have some good chemistry here. How strange that it is Lady Gaga, not Mr Cooper like I expected at first, who carries the two of them to the finish line.
The music, of course, is fabulous. Mr Cooper ain’t too bad, but Lady Gaga demonstrates that she has more in her than someone who wears weird dresses and panders heavily to her LGBT fans. In fact, just like it was with The Greatest Showman, I suspect that the music amplifies my enjoyment of this movie far more than I’d like to admit, heh. Nonetheless, I find myself getting caught up in the romance, and yes, I get choked up quite a bit at the denouement.
A Star Is Born, yes, but that’s all Lady Gaga in the end.