I first saw A Star Is Born at the Dolby Screening Room in Soho. You’ll know I was there, because they’re still draining the theatre, after I sobbed uncontrollably for precisely 136 minutes.
Eventually, after five months, I managed to pull myself together and get over the trauma that the characters – Ally and Jack – endured. That was, until, I was asked to review the Blu-ray release. Here I am, writing this, fully dehydrated once more.
In case you haven’t seen the past 4,396 reiterations of it, A Star Is Born focuses on a has-been musician, Jackson Maine, as he helps a young singer, Ally, become a superstar, all the while he struggles with substance and alcohol abuse; sending his own career down the drain.
This was a film that shocked me. I was so shocked to see Bradley Cooper could direct. Who knew that the least entertaining member of The Hangover – excluding Mike Tyson, obviously – would go on to become an astounding director? Not only is A Star Is Born well-paced and moving, but visually, it’s just gorgeous. (And I’m not just talking about Cooper’s facial hair. But, seriously… Phwoar.) A lot of the most striking moments in this movie happen so because of the lighting. When we’re first introduced to Lady Gaga’s Ally, she stands out – the stage she performs on is lit entirely in red, where she stands out with a blue light shining on her. This comes back full circle, when Jackson* commits suicide, and Ally’s house is glowing red and blue, thanks to the police lights.
* Seriously? You’re crying because I spoiled the film for you? The original A Star Is Born came out in 1937. Here’s a list of other things I could spoil for you – World War II is over; Michael Jackson passed away, and the bloke who coughed on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? didn’t get away with it.
Of course, it doesn’t take Scorsese to turn on a light and put a bit of blue plastic over the bulb, does it? Cooper did so much more. Firstly, he paid beautiful homage to the previous incarnations of A Star Is Born, from his retro-looking title card, which slowly faded in word-by-word. He also, in my opinion, got the tone just right – while it was a tale of the pitfalls of stardom, and the harrowing effects of alcoholism, there were still moments of humour, thanks to secondary characters, such as Ally’s father, played by Andrew Dice Clay. Bradley also made very uneventful moments – such as Ally and Jackson eating breakfast – seem more interesting, thanks to his one-camera, slow panning shots. Well all know if Michael Bay had directed this, we’d have at least 83 different shots of Gaga eating a piece of toast, and that would eventually explode in her mouth.
There are a few things I cannot forgive the Academy for. James Franco should have never hosted – I don’t even want him invited back, now. John Travolta should never be allowed to say “Idina Menzel” again. And, most importantly, you should never snub a director when he’s produced a film this incredible.
As I said, this film shocked me. Who knew Lady Gaga was such an incredible actor? Of course, everyone who watched American Horror Story knew, but I’m a big ol’ wuss and will never watch something with the word ‘horror’ in the title. (Unless it’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and I get to do every single damn dance routine.) I couldn’t be happier with the praise Lady Gaga got for her role as Ally Maine. She thoroughly deserves it. She has incredible chemistry with Bradley Cooper, and she came across as so natural throughout. Her acting style was quite often very subtle, at points – during the first time she performed Shallow; where her character had never performed in front of such a large-scale audience before, her hands looked to be shaking, and the way she covered her eyes seemed so realistic.
In fact, Gaga was so good, I was occasionally disappointed when she wasn’t on-screen. Don’t get me wrong – both Bradley Cooper and Sam Elliott were sublime – and well worthy of their recent award nominations – but it seemed to frequent that it was just Cooper on screen, and often came across as more of a vanity project for himself.
Naturally, the music is sublime and the entire film itself is effortlessly cool, but I struggled with all of the pop culture references during – from Saturday Night Live to the GRAMMYs. The worst moment for me was when Jackson discovers Ally in a drag-bar, and the only two drag queens with speaking roles were both plucked from RuPaul’s Drag Race. Two notable characters from the show, Shangela and Willam, are cast, and this totally distracted me from the story; in fact, it removed me from any belief that this tale was true – all I could help but think was “Isn’t she the person who said “Ass. Ass. Titties. Hair. Hair. Gas Mask”?” There are so many talented drag queens out there – ask my Dad; he fell for one in Gran Canaria which he’s still, to this day, confused was a woman. There was no need to cheapen the look of the movie by casting these two.
A Star Is Born is one of the few instances where a remake was done right; in fact, bloody well. It’s incredibly directed with a stellar performance from its two leading stars. If only Bradley Cooper had directed that remake of The Mummy, then maybe I wouldn’t be banned from the Harlow Cineworld for hurling obscenities at the screen.