‘A Star is Born’ is a fresh rebirth of a classic plot

Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut takes on iconic love story


The latest vision of "A Star is Born" displays a powerful dynamic between Lady Gaga and director Bradley Cooper.

Courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures

“A Star Is Born” must be the most aptly named movie right now because it truly is akin to a falling star. The film is beautiful and emotional — it burns so brightly you can’t take your eyes off it, even for a second. 

This particular script and film already has its own place in Hollywood history, with Bradley Cooper’s latest interpretation being the fourth in a line of star-studded productions, the first of which — starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March — came out in 1937. The original script and subsequent 1954 remake — headlined by the iconic Judy Garland — both follow the romantic story of a young aspiring actress who falls for an established actor and is taken under his wing. This results in a dynamic power swap as the apprentice becomes more famous than the master, and the master devolves into addiction and hardship. 

While the story’s general plot and structure have remained the same across every adaptation, the 1976 version starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson turned the actress storyline into a songstress one, beginning a new tradition for a classic film. And now, this plot baton has been passed to Cooper and Lady Gaga, who’ve taken it and sprinted away into the sunset.

“A Star is Born” may be an age-old title and story, but the 2018 adaptation is full of firsts. Cooper, who has starred in hits such as “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle,” both co-starred and made it his directorial debut. Lady Gaga — the legendary pop singer behind “Born This Way” and “Just Dance” — had a first of her own with this movie, making her feature film debut in a leading role. That said, Gaga is no stranger to the acting world, earning a Golden Globe for her role as the vampiric matriarchal Countess on the sixth season of Ryan Murphy’s anthology series “American Horror Story.” The combination of Cooper’s cinematography choices and acting skills with Gaga’s musical and acting performances makes this movie a vibrant and raw experience.

Rolling from jittery handheld shots of country music star Jackson Maine (Cooper) in concert straight to solidly sterile shots of aspiring singer Ally (Gaga) breaking up with her boyfriend in a restaurant bathroom, this movie immediately sets itself up as one of emotional juxtapositions. Old versus young, poor versus rich, famous versus unknown — the film is an emotional rollercoaster exploring all of these back-and-forth dilemmas. But, while the camerawork is impressive in its own right, the true mastery of this film is the performances from Cooper and Gaga. In one of the film’s pivotal scenes, after spending a whirlwind night of improv songwriting, bar fights and drag shows together, Jackson invites Ally onstage to sing with him. Nervously, she joins him onstage in front of a crowd of thousands, and that is where the real magic of this movie lies.

“A Star is Born” manages to convince audiences that Lady Gaga as we know her doesn’t exist. The world “A Star is Born” takes place in is modern-day America, with stars like Alec Baldwin and Halsey making cameo appearances. Lady Gaga, a literal living legend, isn’t mentioned at the Grammys in the film. She doesn’t grace magazine covers and billboards, and she isn’t at the top of the charts. There are no meat dresses or caution tape bondage outfits — there’s only shy, mousy Ally who can’t even open her eyes to sing in front of a crowd. Lady Gaga fully embodies her character. And of course, when she opens her mouth to sing, it becomes even more of a privilege to be sitting in the audience.

This movie is more than just a really good musical love story — it’s a piece of Hollywood history. Cooper and Gaga’s “A Star is Born” is the most recent modernization of an old classic, and it certainly has left its mark on audiences, the industry and the tradition it was born from. To make a long story short, when in a few decades producers decide to make the next “A Star is Born,” they’ll have even bigger shoes to fill than ever before.

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