A Star Is Born
Director: Bradley Cooper
Cast: Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper
It takes a lot for a star to be born. Massive stellar bodies have to collapse and die so that a new, brighter and stronger star can emerge. That’s what we have learnt on science channels and also in the many remakes of Hollywood’s favourite musical tragedy, A Star Is Born.
Why does this story need to be told so often? A Star Is Born has been made thrice already–in 1937 with Janet Gaynor and Fredric March; in 1954 with Judy Garland and James Mason; and in 1976 with Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. Every 20 years, we get a new version of the plagued man and the woman he hopes will release him from the torture that is his own self. This hope has failed the men thrice already and this time, more than 40 years later, it is Bradley Cooper’s turn to try his luck. While the man in the story cannot say the same, Cooper has succeeded. He makes you fall in love once again with a story we already know too well.
Cooper’s A Star Is Born is tragic without being melodramatic, romantic without losing the sight of the hopelessness of the situation and magically musical without ignoring the evolution and dissolution of relationships. Cooper plays Jackson Maine, an alcoholic, drug addict rock singer with the voice of God and an ailment that will take it all away from him.
He drowns himself in booze each night and during one such drunken escapade at a bar, struggling to keep his feet on ground, squinting at every light that falls on his eyes, he is still able to recognise the star of this story, Lady Gaga. She is in drag, belting out the most stunning and erotic rendition of Edith Piaff’s La Vie En Rose. She still feels quite familiar, dressed in drag clothes, painted hair, taped eyebrows and the demeanour of someone who is already a star. She is Lady Gaga, the singer, the pop star. But as he takes off her eyebrows and she nervously answers his many questions, we see a new unseen version of her. She is Ally, a woman who has lost all her self confidence after hearing discouraging comments about her looks for years.
But now she has met a man who says her nose is beautiful, she is beautiful, has the voice of an angel, marvels at her ability to write songs in an instant and makes her turn around just so he could take another look at her. She falls in love overnight and doesn’t let it go for anything he throws at her in the years to come.
Ally is pure and precious with nothing but love to give. She is talented beyond measure and dreams to be a star herself but everything takes a backseat to him. He is her biggest dream, nothing even comes close. The first half of their story is strung together with gorgeous songs that they sing together and create together. He takes her on tours with him and his audience falls in love with her. She is now on her own way to success rather than being the special treat he sometimes gives to his fans at a show.
As anyone would imagine, he starts getting jealous and resentful and this is where A Star Is Born starts becoming extraordinary. Instead of letting her know, he lets the resentment pile in his heart. To drown it all out, he lets the alcohol and drugs take the rein of his life and actions. Every time he messes up, he decided to make it up with her by doing something excessive and stupid and she, being so hopelessly in love, laps it right up. He keeps failing her, she keeps forgiving him. The cycle of their bad romance keeps turning and gaining rust until it finally cannot bear to move any longer.
While Lady Gaga is the star attraction here, A Star Is Born is still very much Bradley Cooper’s film. He is the one struggling with the demons of his past that he cannot ward away. His entire relationship with Ally starts and is lived in a drunken stupor. Like her, we too believe if it’s all even real but like her, we too let it happen because it was so good while it was. In one scene, Ally casually mentions how she knows that the sober version of him doesn’t love her and the heartache that envelops the moment was for me the most tragic scene of the film, not the end. Both Bradley and Gaga tear into your soul in that moment with their performances.
The two are equally impressive in the film’s more musical moments. ‘Shallow’ had been ringing in my ears since I first heard it in the film’s trailer months ago and to finally watch it so perfectly entwined in their story, gave the song an extra spark that I never knew it needed. Ally lets the Gaga in her shine in songs that were deemed too vulgar for her talent by Jack. But because she is played by Gaga, she refuses to let it be shown as something she would rather not do or as something lesser than the prestigious rock that he sings.
This is what made Lady Gaga what she is, how could she have let the film disrespect it. Thankfully, Cooper also knew that and made it the only exception that she fights with Jack about.
Cooper decided to give more time to the songs and important scenes in the film which sometimes led to confusion about the passage of time. The entire story seems to have happened in a matter of days and so things like the wedding, the descent into depression seemed more rushed. The film seemed to be missing bits and chunks but whatever scenes did make it to the final cut were all polished to perfection.
A Star Is Born explores the thick layers of being hopelessly in love with someone who is unable to accept that love. Do you continue loving him? Do you put yourself first? The more rational ones among us would opt for the latter but this story isn’t for the rational ones. It’s for those like Ally, who know there is nothing above and beyond their love for a broken person.
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First Published: Oct 12, 2018 14:55 IST