Kristin Cole ‘22
From poker faces and meat dresses to duets with Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga’s career has been filled with bold moves and surprises. Now she has made her breathtaking film debut with her lead role in “A Star Is Born.” Bradley Cooper made is his directorial debut while also starring alongside Lady Gaga.
While the movie marks “firsts” for both actors, it is certainly not the first time for this timeless hollywood story. “A Star is Born” first iteration happened in 1937 featuring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March. This was followed by 1954’s remake with Judy Garland and James Mason, and then again in 1976 with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. In its fourth time around, the Gaga-Cooper tandem seems to hit all the right notes.
Cooper plays Jackson Maine, a leathery-skinned, long-haired rock singer who has already reached his peak, yet still performs to sold-out stadiums. Backstage, sinking reclusively into his seat of an SUV, he finds comfort in a gin bottle. In search of more alcohol the deep, throaty voiced Arizona native stumbles into a drag bar only to be transfixed by Gaga’s character Ally. A waitress who moonlights as songwriter with an incredible voice. In a smooth yet slightly creepy way, Maine convinces Ally to have a drink with him. From this scene their relationships grows until eventually he asks her to join him onstage at a concert. Thus begins a passionate romance, Ally’s rise to pop-stardom, and Maine’s tragically slow collapse.
Gaga’s presence while on the screen is as powerful as her beloved singing voice in one of her songs. Ally’s passion for singing and songwriting grows and matures parallel to her relationship with Jackson. While his inner demons become outer pressures on her, his alcoholism begins to hinder her surging rise to fame. She handles iHeartRadio performances and Grammy wins alongside his erratic public behavior with both poise and patience. While Ally is the “star” rising throughout the film, it is Maine’s struggles that add both depth and meaning to this beautifully poignant story. His inner demons and downfall are highlighted and enhanced by Ally’s abrupt rise to fame, and yet the audience is still left rooting for him constantly even as the garage door closes and you know what is about to happen. The powerful on-screen chemistry between Gaga and Cooper shows the rawness of true love that is burdened by the pressures of fame, addiction and mental illnesses.
The Cooper-directed film captures the story in vivid details: close ups where one can see the pain and hurt in the couples’ eyes, glistening sweat of Maine’s unbearable guilt and Ally’s unwavering support for her husband. It is in these details that we notice Maine’s remorse as he relapses. The details show Ally’s growing concern, how hurt she as as she constantly gives him reassurance. In his debut as a director, Cooper adds background, depth and meaning to a timeless, heartbreaking film. His mastery of detail and storytelling, illustrated by a stellar cast leave us eager to see what he and Gaga will do next.