I’ve never cared much for fictional films about musicians starring musicians as they’ve always seemed like a narcissistic attempt at drawing attention to their own lives while playing a fictional version of themselves. Like, the only major change is in the name? With A Star Is Born, I went into it with the same expectations.
The film stars Lady Gaga as Ally, a would-be singer working a waitress job while occasionally performing at a drag bar on weekends with her friends. When country superstar Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper, who also makes his debut as director with this film) accidentally makes his way to the bar in a desperate bid for a late night drink after a show, he sees Ally performing a cover of La Vie en Rose and is immediately mesmerized by her. With some convincing from her best friend, Ally reluctantly agrees to meet with him after the bar closes and from there their relationship blossoms – personal and professional.
The film depicts the rise of Ally from a wannabe to an overnight superstar, aided by the help and belief of Jackson. But she takes the route of a common pop star, much to the disappointment of Jackson and most likely the audience.
The music throughout the film supports the evolution of the story. With songs written mostly by Gaga with some songwriting contributions by Cooper and a mixture of songwriters from the worlds of country and pop such as Jason Isbell, Hillary Lindsay, Diane Warren, Mark Ronson, and longtime Gaga collaborator DJ White Shadow, among others, the songs serve as another character. As Jack and Ally evolve throughout the film, so too do the songs – and not always for the better.
It’s challenging to see Gaga as someone other than Gaga in the beginning but her role as Ally is the most relatable Gaga has been and soon she grows into the character. She’s still a pop star, yes, but a pop star with a life beyond the stage. Cooper owns his role as a country star, also with his own problems that includes an aching heart for Ally. The pivotal moment comes toward the end when Gaga delivers perhaps one of the greatest performances of her career – in song and act.
A Star Is Born takes a standard plot that has literally been done and gives the audience something to take with them long after the film is over. You’ll want to see it twice more.