After nearly two full weeks of family and friends raving about A Star is Born, I finally saw it this weekend. I had seen both Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga on The Ellen Show (separately) talking about the film, and Ellen told both of them that she was positive they'd be nominated for Oscars.
This is the fourth remake of this film. The original premiered in 1937 starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, the second version came out in 1954 with Judy Garland and James Mason, and the third rendition debuted in 1976 with Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. In the 2018 take, Bradley Cooper not only co-stars, but co-wrote the script and directed the film.
Lady Gaga steps into the lead female role, as Ally, an aspiring singer and songwriter who plays late at night in drag bars and is certain she doesn't have the look required to really make it big. After seeing the movie, I had to know more about how Lady Gaga was cast. According to this interview with Variety, Cooper said they bonded over their Italian-American roots and a shared loved of home cooked Italian meals.
*SPOILER ALERT! Do not read on if you do not want to know anything about the plot of this movie.*
Ally meets Cooper's character, Jackson Maine, when he stumbles into the drag bar where she performs. He is completely captivated as she sings "La Vie en Rose." He insists on waiting for her after the show so they can share a drink. As the night wears on, they wind up in a grocery store parking lot where Ally sings for Jackson, a few verses from a song she's written. When you hear those first few notes, you get goosebumps. If you had any doubt about the purity of Lady Gaga's voice, that scene will extinguish it.
The next day, Jackson sends for Ally, bringing her to his concert via a private plane. She's watching the show from the side of the stage, when Jackson asks her to come out and sing a song she wrote (the one from the grocery store parking lot). She is petrified, but he starts playing the first few bars on the guitar and she summons the courage the step into the light. As she begins to sing, you can tell she is experiencing an equal mix of fear and exhilaration as she processes exactly what is happening. At points she covers her face, in embarrassment and shock, but when she locks eyes with Jackson and realizes he is really giving her this moment, she leans in and belts it out. I wanted to hug her and jump up and down all at the same time.
As you can likely predict, Jackson and Ally develop an intense romance and she continues to sing with him on tour. I was super impressed by the raw and real chemistry between Cooper and Gaga. I believed every knowing smile, every flirtatious gaze, every moment of physical longing and magnetism.
The tension builds as Jackson struggles with his addiction to alcohol and drugs, especially when Ally is offered a record deal and starts to peel away to do her own recording, rehearsals and shows. I was struck by Ally's experience of being molded into a pop star that would appeal to the masses. I couldn't help but wonder (Oh hey, Carrie Bradshaw), if Lady Gaga had gone through these exact same pressures as her star was rising. In the scene where she is performing a song on Saturday Night Live about texting, I was reminded of Lady Gaga's super electro-pop song "Telephone."
There's a particularly cringe-worthy scene where Ally is nominated for Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards and Jackson stumbles, wasted, on stage during her acceptance speech. Not only does he steal her moment, he pisses his pants on stage. You definitely have to suspend reality during that scene, as there's no way, in the year 2018, anyone that blitzed would get on stage without being stopped by a security guard.
*MEGA SPOILER ALERT! I am about to reveal the ending, so stop reading if you do not want to know.*
Post-Grammy Awards, Jackson lands in rehab. When he's released, Ally welcomes him home with open arms. He seems truly refreshed and ready to enjoy a slower pace of life with his bride.
Unfortunately, Ally's sleazeball manager has other plans and rips into Jackson about how his behavior is negatively impacting her and her ability to succeed. You can just see it in his eyes, he's spiraling instantly.
As soon as Jackson made a steak for their dog, Charlie, I knew exactly what was going to happen. My chest tightened, my breathing got funny and tears were streaming down my face. As Vulture said so perfectly in their review, "He (Cooper) doesn’t jerk your tears — he eases them out until you suddenly realize you’re a mess."
And that's just what I was for the final 10 minutes of the film, a blubbering mess. I felt completely, emotionally destroyed. Especially in that last scene, where Ally sings the song Jackson wrote for her, and they splice that stage moment with flashbacks to their happier times, I lost it. There were not enough tissues in the world to console me.
When the movie ended, the audience clapped as if they were at a concert. I read that when the film debuted in Venice, Italy, the audience gave a standing ovation for a full eight minutes. I have no doubt that is true.
I was grateful the credits ran for several minutes before the lights came on, because I needed all that time to collect myself and stop crying.
Later that night at dinner, we were discussing the movie again and I am confident that both Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga will be nominated for all the awards in January, February and March. Cooper transformed himself for this role, most notably with his voice, though he also learned to play guitar for the part. And Lady Gaga - this is a pivotal moment in her career. She had already achieved international super stardom as a singer, but now she will likely be an Oscar winner. She deserves every second of praise.
Now, like everyone else who has seen it, I will be replaying the songs from the film again and again and again.
Tell me, did you see it? What did you think?
If you have watched, enjoy this awesome piece from Vanity Fair about all the Easter eggs in the film.