It shouldn’t come as any surprise that the very first a-cappella notes that Ally (Gaga’s renamed Esther from the 1937, 1954 and 1976 films) sings rip into the night sky of a supermarket carpark with stunning clarity, but the moment still shimmers. Rockstar Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) intently stares, as his eyes fill with tears on the very first evening he’s spending with this until now unknown wonder.
As a director, Cooper plays to his strengths as a great advocate for the intensity of melodrama. By casting himself as the reckless and impulsive superstar Jackson Maine, he falls slightly into the trap of imbuing fiction with a touch too much ego, but it does pay off. Jack is a surly contradiction, charming and clumsy in his boyish physicality while trying to impress. As he falls harder for Ally and makes room for some light in his life, he softens and Cooper delivers a solidly moving performance.
When the story is told through words, Jackson and Ally hit a lot of recognisable beats – brazen humour, sensual attraction and sporadic hints of doubt. But when they sing, it’s impossible to dissect or distract: all you can do is hold on to the goosebumps on your skin while Gaga blinds the brightest lights and just makes everything become more alive. Cooper provides an unexpected safety net that makes complete sense, and as the crowd screams with an incontrollable passion for their superstar icons, it’s impossible to feel removed.
What makes Ally such a hypnotic influence is that she embodies so much more than what she could potentially be defined by; she’s not just a rockstar’s muse, a producer’s protégée or her father’s proudest achievement. Ally is all of this and all of her own, making her mark in her selflessness and love for what she does, as well as through her innate ability to evoke empathy and admiration, drawing all eyes on her, at all times.
As the story grows and Jackson falls, Cooper becomes greater through a deep, growling pain. Once the mumbles of fame have been snuffed out, his gravity as a deeply involving sufferer cuts with an upsetting honesty. There’s an early glamour to the star-studded romance, but when it needs to be, A Star Is Born lets the honeymoon glow fade when the toxic sting of addiction, obsession and heartbreak becomes too much to bear.
'It’s the same story over and over. All an artist can offer the world is how they see those 12 notes' – that’s what we’re told about this mad music business. And maybe it is the same for this film, maybe we’ve seen it before, heard the music and felt how love burns, how inescapable self-destruction hurts. But there’s no taking away from what the marriage of these moments has created, the importance of all these new stars shining so bright.
The words they sing about ring true, etched into hearts long after they’ve dropped their gaze and stopped the records. Maybe it is the same story, but it doesn’t make it any easier to love again or to say goodbye.
Reviewed at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. A Star Is Born hits UK cinemas on 5 October 2018.
|What||A Star is Born film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
03 Oct 18 – 03 Oct 19, TIMES VARY
|Price||£ determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here for more information|