By Andy Chandler
Every now and then a film comes along with ‘Oscar’ written all over it.
That’s not a sign of quality, some down right awful films have won Oscars, but then those films come along that seem to have been made solely for those people who have the job of picking winners.
You know the type of film that those Academy guys n’ gals go for, make an overindulgent film about the golden age of Hollywood (and throw in some music): Oscar, give a vast and unimaginable tragedy a human touch: Oscar.
Oscar-worthy films have certain criteria they must fit and A Star Is Born was made purely to tick those boxes. But it ticks those boxes in a great way.
Once some films have slept for a while, it’s fun to drag them back out, dust them off and let another generation discover them, and 40-ish years have passed since Barbara Streisand remade ‘A Star Is Born’, so the time was certainly ripe for this behemoth of a film to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
Bradley Cooper, who stars in this remake, also directs for the first time and gets a hell of a performance out of Lady Gaga, whose acting chops cannot be sniffed at. Her turn in as Ally in this has really caught my attention.
But let’s not be surprised by this, they cast a pop-star whose looks have got her more column inches than her music to play someone whose looks have held them back from becoming a pop-star, of course she had something to say about this, I’d have been more surprised if she hadn’t.
It’s more of a shock that Bradley Cooper can sing and play the guitar, his earlier roles gave no clue that he possessed these musical skills.
But, lets get to the all important plot: Jackson “Jack” Maine (Bradley Cooper), a famous country music singer privately battling an alcohol and drug addiction, plays a concert in California.
His main support is Bobby, his manager and older half-brother. After the show, Jack visits a drag bar where he witnesses a performance by Ally (Lady Gaga), a waitress and singer-songwriter.
Jack is amazed by her performance, and they spend the night talking to each other, where Ally opens up to him the about the troubles she has faced in pursuing a professional music career.
Jack invites Ally to his next show. Despite her initial refusal she attends and, with Jack’s encouragement, sings on stage with him. Jack invites Ally to go on tour with him, and they form a romantic relationship.
In Arizona, Ally and Jack visit the ranch where Jack grew up and where his father is buried, only to discover that Bobby sold the land. Angered at his betrayal, Jack punches Bobby, who subsequently quits as his manager.
Before doing so, Bobby reveals that he did inform Jack about the sale, but that he was too drunk to notice.
While on tour, Ally meets Rez, a record producer who offers her a contract. Although visibly bothered, Jack still supports her decision. Rez refocuses Ally away from country music and towards pop. Jack misses one of Ally’s performances after he passes out drunk in public….
The rest I leave to you to discover, mainly because it is worth it and you will have a great time watching these two characters try and survive in a world ready to chew them up and spit them out.
The performances are enthralling and the songs do just enough to lend credence to the story, but my main quandry about this film is when the hell you should watch it.
It’s too dark in places to make enjoyable family viewing but starts off like a love story, it subverts where you think it’s got the guts to go and ends up telling you about the trappings of fame, but with sparkly pop-music in the background.
So ‘A Star Is Born’ lingers in the contradictions it brings you, but all in all it leaves you feeling, like the characters, a tad chewed up and spat out, yes it’s an emotional powerhouse of a movie but I still don’t know what it’s trying to tell me as an overall message.
Maybe it’s a warning about getting what you wish for, maybe it’s telling you to stay true to yourself, maybe it’s telling you that music is so powerful a force that it can unite people from opposite ends of the scale of life or maybe it’s telling you to stay away from any of the “ladies” you run into in drag bars….who knows…..who cares when it looks and sounds as sumptuous as this does? 4/5