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Sometimes I joke about the five-tool players who are Hollywood stars and just how mad they make me. I am kidding, of course, Hollywood stars do not make me mad (usually). What I am is jealous, jealous of the stars like Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga.
In A Star Is Born, Bradley Cooper directs an amazing Bradley Cooper who is pure fire as Jackson Maine, a country-pop star who may well be on the down side of his career. As Maine, Cooper is magnetic, singing songs that the actor himself wrote, playing guitar himself and keeping up with a band that is truly terrific. Cooper the actor is captivating here. Cooper the director is more than accomplished. His work is riveting.
Bradley Cooper: instrumentalist, singer, writer, actor, director. Five tools. That is pretty darn good and well worth the price of admission.
But, wait, there’s more.
Lady Gaga is, somehow, even more compelling than Cooper. As Ally, an ultra-talented unknown, Gaga sings songs she wrote for the film, accompanies herself on them, acts like the Emmy Award (soon to be Academy Award nominated) actress she is and manages to steal almost every scene in which she appears. If Cooper is great, and he is, Gaga is something else altogether.
If you think you got goosebumps hearing her sing in the trailers for the film, wait until she uncorks the song Shallow at you in full voice and in full scene. She is breathtaking.
Clearly to concept of A Star Is Born is somehow timeless. This is the fourth film of the same name, the third remake of the original. I must admit that I have seen none of other versions but, based on how good this one is, I will.
Cooper’s Jack meets Gaga’s Ally in a bar and the rest you probably know already. He senses her talent. She sense his demons. They fall in love. He helps propel his career. And a star is born.
The two are ably supported by a quirky but stunning supporting cast headed by Sam Elliot as Bobby, Jackson’s manager. He is ever bit Sam Elliot and every bit as good as Elliot always is. Cooper also somehow lured reclusive Dave Chappelle into the movie and it is very good to see him on screen. The most stunning supporting actor, however, has to be an unrecognizable Andrew Dice Clay as Ally’s father. Talk about a transformation.
There is, frankly, nothing inherently original about the movie. Even for someone who is not familiar with the original material, there are few surprises here. But that does not matter. Gaga and Cooper rise above what would be a paint-by-number pastiche in lesser hands. They wring emotion out of the music and the music is truly special. Their performances are, too.
And Cooper’s direction is special as well. For a first time feature director, Cooper is in complete command from the opening frame. He never lingers too long on any one shot and keeps his camera in as much motion as the story will allow. His staging of the concert scenes is as vast as his blocking of the character moments is intimate.
This is an excellent movie. It is powerful and emotional. It is stunning to watch. It is lovingly directed and brilliantly scored. And, forgive me here, but two stars are born: Cooper the director and Gaga the film star.
I cannot wait to see what they do next.
A STAR IS BORN receives FOUR AND A HALF POWER BALLADS out of a possible FIVE