If you’re hesitant to see the newest incarnation of A Star Is Born — because “Hey, I saw the 1976 version with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson and that was enough for me. Besides, who can do that story better than those two?” — I’m here to allay your doubts. Go see it. Go now. Really — stop reading and go now.
I should probably preface all this by acknowledging that the first movie of this title was made in 1937; it was then adapted in 1954 to a film starring Judy Garland (who plays an up-and-coming singer / actress) and James Mason (playing a movie star whose brilliance is fading). Many consider this classic to be the “Star” by which all others are judged, particularly given Garland’s wonderful performance (come on, it’s Judy Garland, what did you expect?).
Fast forward to 1976 when the aforementioned Streisand / Kristofferson remake appeared. This version updated the classic with Kris as a rock star whose brilliance is dimming (sense a theme here?) and Barbra as a singer (what else?) who is about to become a sensation. The movie was good (come on, it’s Barbra Streisand, what did you expect?), if a bit stagy for my tastes.
Okay, here’s the news. This latest version of A Star Is Born — starring Bradley Cooper (who also directed, produced, and co-wrote) and Lady Gaga — is a revelation. First of all, who knew that Cooper could sing? Boy, can he. In fact, he lowered the register of his speaking voice to suit the character and maintains that sound in his singing. In his portrayal of fading rock star Jackson Maine, he is vulnerable, intense, sexy, and sad. This movie gives him the arena to show off how incredibly talented he is and why he has previously been nominated for multiple Academy Awards.
Even more so than the surprise of Cooper’s singing abilities is the acting achievement of Lady Gaga in this, her first motion picture. As singer / songwriter Ally, who up until now cannot catch a break but is about to break through big time, she delivers a performance that is emotionally powerful, musically breathtaking, and just flat out achingly soulful. Three words: she is phenomenal.
And one more word for you: chemistry. The chemistry between Cooper and Gaga is palpable. Theirs isn’t a spark; it’s a full-on inferno of passion for the music and for each other. All of which is to say that the story feels real, the characters sound real, and the need for a hanky afterward is all too real.
This newest incarnation of A Star Is Born should be the last. It’s that exceptional.
ⓒ 2018 Claudia Grossman