It’s hard to believe that ten years after she rose to fame as an extravagant, over-the-top pop star, Lady Gaga convinces as an actress playing a shy waitress in New York City who also happens to be a very talented singer. But oh boy, does she.
A Star Is Born gets rave reviews, has a current rating of 8.5 (!) on movie website IMDb and is already tipped as a supposed Oscar winner. Lady Gaga could have done much worse for her first major movie role. Still, it was a bit of a gamble – it’s the fourth American movie version of A Star Is Born (the previous ones being made in 1937, 1954 and 1976), and remakes, well… they’re often quite superfluous.
Not this one, though. The movie – about rockstar Jackson Maine meeting Ally, an unknown singer, who becomes not only his girlfriend but also a bigger star than he is – is executed greatly. It has a beautiful soundtrack and equal cinematography – and not to forget a story line that contains both an uplifting and very cute love story (wow, do Bradley Cooper and Gaga make a convincing couple!) and a much heavier, darker emotional plot line, revolving around Maine’s ongoing struggle with alcoholism and the consequential decline of his career.
Lady Gaga truly steals the show, showing off some flawless acting skills – as somebody who has not seen American Horror Story, I was very impressed – and of course breathtaking vocals. With her vocals, obviously, I’ve been familiar for a long time. But still, she managed to slay the hell out of me. Quite early in the movie, she does a lovely rendition of ‘La Vie En Rose’, but that’s nothing compared to what you’re gonna get later on.
Those impressive musical moments are not just a result of her great singing, but also of excellent songwriting on this soundtrack. I didn’t think there would be a song that would top ‘Shallow’ – the only song I knew before I saw the movie, released as the first single of the soundtrack – but there is, in the form of ‘Always Remember Us This Way’. But there are some more songs in here that could easily pass as classics. Ironically – since Lady Gaga is the main star of the movie – the uptempo pop songs sung by her character Ally are the least impressive. They don’t come close to songs that Gaga has released herself.
Okay, so Gaga can act and sing. But we can’t forget to mention that Cooper can do both, too. He proves himself to be a pretty gifted singer and is as convincing as Gaga, playing a hard-drinking – but in his core, very sweet – rock musician. Seeing his career slowly but surely perish while Ally’s (Gaga’s) is ascending, is at times uneasy, but this gloomy premise provides us with a beautiful silver lining: one of unconditional love. That lining aside – A Star Is Born is a much sadder and touching movie than I thought it would be. It’s far from a cliché rags-to-riches story, to say the least.
Interestingly, with Ally’s transition from an unknown singer-songwriter to a major pop star, she seems to somewhat lose her true self – whereas the Gaga we know, is in the first place mostly seen as a major pop star, and less as a singer-songwriter. On the other hand, most of the music in the film is more in line with Gaga’s recent country-inspired album Joanne than with her older more poppy stuff, so it might signal the way we will view her as an artist from now on. At the very least, it will cement her name as a legend in the music industry.
Also, Gaga’s character’s rise to the top seems to have some parallels with the singer’s ascend to fame. In scenes in which Ally describes being told ’not being beautiful enough to land a record deal’ and more specifically ‘having too big a nose to be considered pretty’, one cannot un-see the comparison to Gaga’s own story. This only makes the movie impress more, adding a sense of realism and depth to it. This depth shines through in more aspects of the characters and the story, as well as in the soundtrack, and it’s an element that makes sure that not only Gaga fans or musical lovers will enjoy A Star Is Born – it’s a must-see also for those who are not a fan of either one, but do love a strong film.
By Tim van Erp