“I started writing this song the other day,” says singer/song-writer Ally (Lady Gaga). She’s talking to country-rocker Jackson (Jack) Maine (Bradley Cooper), whom she’s just met at the bar where she sings. “But I don’t usually sing my own songs because I don’t feel comfortable. People say, ‘Oh, you sound great, but you don’t look so good.’” Jack says, “Having something to say, that’s the one reason we’re here.” Then he adds, “I’ve got a gig; want to come?” So begins this third iteration (fourth, if you count Janet Gaynor and Frederick March in 1937) of “A Star Is Born,” Hollywood’s favorite love/hate letter to itself.
Will Ally’s pop-music star rise? Will Jack’s self-destructive life-style bring him down? Will you be entertained by this show-biz tale? You betcha.
Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga are excellent together as the film’s ill-fated couple. Music brings them together, making music together is what they do best, and their powerful chemistry is revealed in how they look at each other. “I want to look at you again,” Jack says early in the film. And at film’s end, Ally tenderly says the same thing. They are characters, however flawed, whom we care about. Sam Elliott is fine as Bobby, Jack’s older brother and long-time mess-cleaner. “If you run into any kind of trouble,” Bobby says to his younger brother, “call me.” Jack does. Dave Chappelle is sympathetic as George “Noodles” Stone, Jack’s closest friend who understands addictions. “You forget where you’re going,” he says, “and then you kinda like what you’re doing.”
Others in the cast include Andrew Dice Clay as Lorenzo, Ally’s father, and Rafi Gavron as Rez, Ally’s annoying and self-appointed manager. Ron Rifkin is Carl, Jack’s rehab doctor. Alec Baldwin plays himself in a SNL episode.
“A Star Is Born” is a genuine, crowd-pleasing Hollywood melodrama. Directed, co-written (with Will Fetters), and starring Bradley Cooper, it’s got music, romance and a compelling, if often-told, show-business story. Jack is washed-up, his career is ending, and he’s heading down. Ally’s star, in contrast, is rising like a comet. This is a romance, so there is no career jealousy on Jack’s part. It’s a well-made picture, especially Matthew Libatique’s first-rate, lots-of-close-ups cinematography.
Rated R for pervasive language, sexuality, nudity and drugs, “A Star Is Born” runs a bit long at 135 minutes. An Academy Award contender.
Third time for “Star Is Born,”
Great show-business saga —
First, Garland; second, Streisand;
Now, this time, it’s Gaga.