WHEN AN ARTIST – of whatever stripe – steps up to the proverbial mic and loses all sense of the audience in front of her, with just the song on her lips or fingers, something unforgettable happens. Ask any performer – be they a pianist or a drag artist, or even a visual artist or a writer: when it’s just you and your ability on that stage, the audience drops away and the art gets to flow. You sometimes see this in the big popular talent shows on TV. And it’s something that Bradley Cooper and his team behind A Star is Born embraces with a full heart.
And indeed, this is a popular film, unabashed in its sense of cliché and predictability, that takes human hopes by the shirtfronts and doesn’t let go until you, in the audience are sobbing, with victory or sadness, or a bit of both, conjoined. But that splinter of artistic inner wisdom is its magical seed.
Now in its fourth iteration, this story of hope in the face of alcoholism and unidentified talent is as filled to the brim with schlock as it was with Kris Kristofferson opposite Barbra Streisand in 1976 or James Mason opposite Judy Garland 22 years earlier, or even Fredric March opposite Janet Gaynor 17 years before that in 1937. Either way, the timing is perfect to rekindle hope in love and music and chance encounters for the current generation.
With Lady Gaga at the steering wheel of this story opposite Cooper, it is pleasantly raw in its sense of rock music, as it offers a strong take on the entertainment industry, which clearly is a story that turns over with each generation.
But something needs to be said for Cooper’s presence in the work: Sometimes when you check the credits for a film and see that the leading actor, the director and the producer are indeed one person, you may have the urge to heave a sigh of despondence, with the oft well-founded assumption that this is but a vanity project. The unerring nature of Cooper’s performance as, in many respects, the anti-hero of the work, reveals him to be a worthy persona in this project and A Star is Born of 2018 is potent and moving, it ticks all the boxes in a work as sweet and fairytale-like as this one.
The music is fresh and unique; Gaga’s performance is bold and gritty, and when this young nobody steps up to the mic in front of an audience of hundreds of thousands of crowing fans, and takes that instrument in both hands, the world turns on its axis. If you haven’t been a fan of Lady Gaga ever, you might watch this film and look at her with a completely different eye (and ear). A Star is Born is not her story, but in it Gaga makes you savvy to the fact that she is the Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland or Janet Gaynor of this era, and she’s not afraid to flaunt it.
- A Star is Born is directed by Bradley Cooper and features a cast headed by Alec Baldwin, Amanda Balen, Michael Bearden, William Bell, Alberto Bof, Brandi Carlile, Lenny Castro, Sanaa Chapelle, David Chappelle, Charlie, Andrew Dice Clay, Bradley Cooper, Drena De Niro, Caroline M. Diamond, George Doering, Montana Efaw, Sam Elliott, Gabe Fazio, Rebecca Field, Ashley Frangipane, Lady Gaga, Rafi Gavron, Christina Grady, Eddie Griffiths, Greg Grunberg, Michael Harney, Barry Shabaka Henley, Victor Indrizzo, Richy Jackson, Derek Kevin Jones, Chris Kelly, Don Roy King, Michael Libatique, Anthony LoGerfo, Luenell, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Michael Mancini, Corey McCormick, Tato Melgar, Lukas Nelson, DJ ‘Shangela’ Pierce, Sloan-Taylor Rabinor, Benjamin Rice, Ron Rifkin, Michael D. Roberts, Leandra De Niro Rodriguez, Anthony Romas, Gena Rositano, Greg Scarnici, Jacob Schick, Christopher Shazar, Jesse Siebenberg, William H. Slattery III, Dennis Tong, Don Was, Josh Wells, Bobby Wilhelm, Marlon Williams and Imani Wisdom. It is written by Bradley Cooper, Joan Didion, John Gregory Dunne, Will Fetters, Moss Hart, Dorothy Parker, Frank Pierson and Eric Roth based on the 1954 and 1976 screenplays and based on the story by Robert Carson and William A Wellman. Produced by Bradley Cooper, Bill Gerber, Lynette Howell Taylor, Jon Peters and Todd Phillips, it features creative input by Matthew Libatique (cinematography), Jay Cassidy (editing), Lindsay Graham and Mary Vernieu (casting), Karen Murphy (production design) and Erin Benach (costumes). Release date in South Africa under Ster Kinekor, October 11, 2018.