“Twelve notes and the octave repeats. It’s the same story, told over and over, forever. All any artist can offer the world is how they see those 12 notes. That’s it.”
These are words said late in Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut “A Star Is Born.” Ultimately, this statement is the mindset of Cooper’s take on the fourth remake of this classic and it works wholeheartedly.
The film centers on Cooper’s washed-up, alcoholic musician Jack falling in love with Lady Gaga’s Ally, trying to rocket her to stardom after realizing her insane musical talent.
The performances by Cooper and Gaga are absolutely mesmerizing. This is Gaga’s first attempt at acting in a feature film and she succeeds in almost every aspect. She executes all of her dialogue with a sincerity that many other musicians-turned-actors fail to bring to their film debuts. Cooper also uses many close-ups of Gaga in the film and her facial acting is enthralling. All the emotions Ally experiences throughout the film — from anxiety to astoundment — can be felt through every eye twitch and expression.
Cooper portrays the washed-up Jack to a T. His gruff voice and demeanor are incredibly believable, the acting is also completely subtle with all the little ticks Cooper adds. He builds his character’s disease of tinnitus — specifically by constantly leaning into conversations to hear better — and the audience gets completely lost in the performance.
His work behind the camera is mind-blowing, especially as his first time directing a feature film. The framing of certain scenes and moments cause chills to run down the viewer’s spine — sparking emotions from absolute heartbreak to joyous celebration.
The cinematography is also breathtaking. Every scene has some sort of color combination that creates shots that leaves jaws on the floor. A scene of Ally walking out of a bathroom stall enraged after a call with an ex-lover could have been very by-the-books, but Cooper’s use of lighting, costume and set design leads to a shot of Gaga screaming, perfectly-centered, surrounded by a black-and-white tiled bathroom that’s been ingrained in my mind since I left the theater.
All of these aspects are perfectly executed in the visceral concert scenes scattered throughout the film. Everything from the excellent framing to the stellar performances is on display for everyone to take in. You can feel every ounce of soul the actors put into their singing and it’s mostly because all the performances were shot on location with no autotune, creating a genuine concert experience.
The only place where the film falters is its pacing near the final act. The film switches focus to certain characters near the end because of specific plot developments, which slows the pace, but doesn’t bring it to a grinding stop.
This pacing switch is made up for in the third act when everything built up in the film pays off in a heartbreaking way that feels completely earned.
This story might have have been told multiple times, but Cooper’s unique eye behind and in front of the camera along with Gaga’s realistic, poignant performance created a fresh and emotional take on a classic. “A Star Is Born” is a must-see and definitely worth the price of admission.