From the first moment of Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, “A Star is Born,” you know it’s going to be a wild ride.
Jackson Maine (played by Cooper), a music artist straight out of a bygone era downs his drug addiction with a tall glass of alcoholism before staggering on to stage in front of a roaring crowd. It’s a powerful opening that’s pumped with the adrenaline of a rock concert and packed with the tension of a ticking time bomb.While it’s set in modern-day, the story is one that closely follows in its predecessors footsteps–a girl with songwriting dreams, Ally (Lady Gaga), meets a man and music legend, Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper), with the ability to make them come true. As her star rises his crashes and burns.
With three incarnations already out in the world, you have to wonder if this “Star” has anything new to say. It turns out, it definitely does.
While the film’s title celebrates the birth and rise of a career, the film is very much focused on the end. Not just the death of a career, but of way of life. As Ally makes her way up the ladder, it becomes very clear that the world Jackson inhabits is one dominated by men. Ally is literally the only woman in the room for most of the film.
In fact, aside from a few backup dancers, a clerk, a couple of assistants, an award presenter, another artist, and another artist’s wife there are no females in the film. The ones who are there are literally in the background. They’re one dimensional.
From an “equal representation” standpoint it’s a bit devastating, but it gives more meaning to Ally’s accomplishment and growth as an artist. Her ascent to the top of the music charts represents more than her success, it’s a change in the world order.
As Jackson Maine, Bradley Cooper demonstrates a grittiness and gruffness that might surprise fans. His Maine is complex and complicated, to say the least. He’s an artist who loathes the spotlight so much that you can see it. He hides beneath his wide-brimmed hats and unkempt hair, and even visibly cowers at times. It’s fascinating, and clearly illustrates why he’s drawn to and overly protective of Ally and her integrity as an artist.
As cliché as it might sound, Lady Gaga was born to play this role. There’s an honesty to her performance that you can’t fake. When she steps on to the stage, overwhelmed by the crowd of thousands, you believe this whole experience is new to her. And in a way it is. She leaves the persona of Gaga behind, and we meet the woman beneath for the first time.
It’s a true star turn. It’s powerful. It’s poignant. It’s beautiful. It’s a star.
…just for fun: