A near deafening scene of a crazed crowd opens up the film “A Star is Born.”
From the viewpoint of rockstar Jackson Maine, played by Bradley Cooper, the sheer size of the audience is staggering, and its grand nature sets the tone for this film. Although Cooper’s directorial debut serves mainly as the story of 2 artists, it also successfully profiles the public eye, without resorting to the “Hollywood True Story” tropes typically used in films of its nature. Without any gossip news reels or clichéd monologues, “A Star is Born” showcases the vulnerability of fame, and its leading performances majorly support its mission.
The film follows Jackson Maine, who guides a young singer, Ally (played by Lady Gaga,) to fame, even as his career is being threatened by his own vices. With a presence as colossal as Lady Gaga’s on screen, the performer does an astonishing job of shedding her image for the role of Ally. As a spirited yet humble musician who hasn’t been able to catch a break, Gaga is nearly unrecognizable. She also manages to carry the character with a similar energy on and off stage, and doesn’t resort to the choice of “transforming” the character when she sings. The Ally we see during her performances is still somewhat familiar. She’s never completely meek nor super confident, but she has layers to her that viewers can recognize due to the strength of Gaga’s performance.
Gaga serves as a worthy opposite to Bradley Cooper as Jackson Maine, who’s character is equally as interesting for audiences to explore. With Maine it feels like we as viewers never know enough about him, despite how much story we’re given. Cooper plays the perfect troubled star whose bad side you don’t want to see. He’s both a force and extremely delicate, and he knows exactly how to both captivate audiences and cause extreme discomfort through the screen.
The main weakness of the film has to be its pacing, which comes off a bit uneven. The first act is packed full with plot that could have afforded to be spread out a bit more. Despite this, performance sequences help to balance out the speed of the film’s story when it’s going too fast or dragging too slow, and the original music serves as an enjoyable way the film splits up its story.
Even for those who might shy away from musical films, Cooper’s directorial debut serves as a unique profile of fame itself, and how it can both suffocate and support those it encounters. This, coupled with the strong music and performances in “A Star is Born,” make it a fresh and engaging watch that’ll be sure to charm diverse audiences.
The film hits theaters this Friday.