Film remakes are normally callus, money-grabbing undertakings, using a known property to make a quick buck with little artistic or business risk. A film that is the third remake of an original? - well, obviously that is going to be some straight-to-video garbage made just to fill out the bargain bins at Walmart.
But then a funny thing happened to A Star is Born on the way to 3 for $10 hell - Bradley Cooper got hold of the script, talked Warner Bros. into letting him direct it and hire Lady Gaga as the titular ingenue, and crafted a soaring, emotional film that is a slam-dunk for a Best Picture nomination, nominations for both the lead actors, and a stepping stone into a top-tier directing career. Stars are born, indeed.
Star hits all the story beats, but turns a rote, oft-told story into an examination of fame, family, and the demons that haunt us. Cooper shoots much of the film in gauzy close-up, which fits the intimate story like a glove, but he is also adept at capturing the manic, almost carnal nature of live music and the crowds that pulse during the performances. Sections of this film play like the best concert movie you've seen in a long time.
"A soaring, emotional film that is a slam-dunk for a Best Picture nomination, nominations for both the lead actors, and a stepping stone into a top-tier directing career. Stars are born, indeed."
As an actor, Bradley Cooper brings humanity to his Jackson Mayes, a southern rock star fighting to keep his head above water. This is some of the most nuanced, subtle acting I've seen from him. He obviously has the matinee-idol looks, but here they are buried under the scruff of a beard, a growl of a voice, and haunted eyes that tell of shadows in his past. He does great work in a part that could easily be outshined by the other main character, Ally.
Amazingly, considering the iconic status Lady Gaga already enjoys in the music industry, this performance will push her even higher into the stratosphere, as I see no reason she couldn't act in dramas without the musical element that was key here. She is a natural playing Ally, and easily could have a top career as an actress.
A Star is Born isn't perfect: the big moment, the duet we were all waiting for, may happen a bit too soon, and Rafi Gavron's manager character could easily have been named Mr. Plot Device Jr., but these are minor quibbles. See this movie on the big screen, enjoy the fantastic music played at theater levels, and realize that you're seeing the emergence of talents that will excite every time their names are on the marquee.