- Courtesy of Warner Bros.
- Gaga and Cooper, together again for the first time.
It's that feeling. For some people it comes from a song lyric or a passage from a book that feels so authentically human that it reminds us we're all a part of a greater whole. It's a feeling that makes incredibly personal art feel universal. As the closing credits for "A Star is Born" started rolling, I looked behind me and saw an entire theater filled with overwhelmed souls, either crying or reaching out to the people they came with to be reminded that they love and are loved in return.
That feeling. Somehow, first-time director Bradley Cooper captured that feeling with a film filled with so much unabashed and raw emotion that it should have sunk beneath the weight of all that drama. The story of "A Star is Born" is a simple one, filled with aching moments of beauty and truth, proving that "simple" isn't necessarily a bad thing.
This is the fourth iteration of this story, after the 1937 original and the musicals from 1954 and 1976. I saw the 1976 version when I was a kid, but all I remember is Kris Kristofferson wasn't very likable and didn't have much chemistry with Barbra Streisand. Cooper and Lady Gaga don't have that issue in the slightest. Their relationship feels real, with moments of such heartbreaking honesty that the film feels almost unbearably intimate.
Cooper is Jackson Maine, a rock star battling alcoholism and an opioid addiction. Gaga is Ally, a waitress who moonlights as a singer in a drag bar. They meet, fall in love and her career begins to explode as Maine's starts declining. A very simple story bolstered by career-best work from Cooper and Gaga.
While Gaga isn't really considered an actress, her work on "American Horror Story" (as a sex-fueled vampire) was quite strong. "A Star is Born" is her breakout though, and she's just about guaranteed an Oscar nomination for her performance and the music. She could go on to be an acclaimed actress, or she could go the route of Bjork after "Dancer in the Dark" and never act again. Either way, she'll be just fine.
Cooper is a revelation. With a bloated red face and a performance devoid of ego, he makes Jackson Maine a wounded hound dog, incredibly lovable even as he's crapping all over the carpet.
Most of the talk around this movie is based on the fact that Cooper and Gaga are mega-celebs staking their claim in new artistic territory, but what they've done is even braver than that. If Cooper didn't nail the tone, script and direction, "A Star is Born" would have felt like an embarrassing vanity project. Instead, they've created something honest and lovely, a movie that will only grow better with time. It might not be the first time this story has been told, but it should definitely be the last.