A Star Is Born - This Movie Intimately Rocks
Dir: Bradley Cooper
Staring Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliot, Dave Chappelle, Andrew Dice Clay, Alec Baldwin, Greg Grunberg, Halsey
Given that this is the fourth time round the block for A Star Is Born, it shouldn’t count as a spoiler to imply that not everyone in the main cast of this gets out alive. The now classic tale of one star on the wane meets one star on the rise is a perennial, and almost a cliché. The fact that it rises above that here is due to its two central performances, and to Bradley Cooper – as both actor and director – the latter in particular.
For the first few moments of his genuinely heartfelt retread of this old warhorse, Cooper as actor is on loose sands, appearing to be channelling a combo of both Kris Kristofferson from the most recent remake of ’76, and Jeff Bridges from his Oscar winning turn in Crazy Heart. But once he goes Gaga, Cooper finds a voice of his own and is remarkably endearing and moving, delivering the finest performance of his career.
But his work as an actor here is eclipsed by his debut as a director. Having inherited the project from his American Sniper helmsman Clint Eastwood (linked to the long in development remake a few clicks back with Beyonce in for what became the Lady), Cooper displays a remarkably assured touch throughout, using a good deal of handheld camerawork to capture the intimacy of the relationship his film focuses on. For all the on stage at Glastonbury footage (shot – tellingly – during Kristofferson’s own set, and also elegantly captured largely hand held) Cooper the filmmaker focuses on his cast as if eavesdropping into developing relationships. The performances he draws from said cast suit his chosen style – intimacy is the key word to his whole movie and he captures it in small, moving detail.
He is ably met by a lead performance from an actress who seems incredibly in tune (no pun intended) with her co-star and director’s approach. Gaga is an open nerve here at times, and an incredibly assured performer at others – less of a stretch there. But between the two sides, she delivers a performance full of vulnerability, strength and uncertainty that is both beautiful and genuinely touching.
This is a small movie in many ways, but one that captures big emotions with a purity and honesty that will reverberate with audiences. And Cooper’s editorial choices in its final few minutes show his understanding of what he is making here, and command of same. Nominations will follow. And they will be deserved.
Plus it has Sam Elliot in it. Which automatically makes it a better film.
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