It’s possible I am a lone reed in not loving the third remake of this quintessential film about the tragedies inherent in fame. A lone reed. Or a heartless wretch. I remained unmoved as Bradley Cooper heroically directs himself into every frame, leaving not enough room for the absorbingly wonderful Lady Gaga.
It seems A Star is Born was overdue for a remake. Made originally in 1937 with Janet Gaynor, it got a musical makeover in 1954 with Judy Garland and James Mason and then after another 20 years in 1976 with Barbra Streisand and Kristen Kristofferson. Forty years later, Bradley Cooper directs and stars as alcoholic rock star Jack who stumbles into a late night drag bar one night and finds Ally (Lady Gaga) who has talent in spades.
She of course has very little self esteem but Jack takes care of that by coercing her to one of his gigs and then dragging her on stage to perform one of her own songs that he has happened to completely prepare. As only happens in the world of musicals, Ally reluctantly complies and then brings the house down with a perfect performance. It is the one truly uplifting moment of the film as the bumbling Ally fleetingly metamorphoses into ferocious Gaga.
I came to the film expecting much more of that but Cooper squanders the real star and fills the story with the stumbling, drunken toxicity of his own character. There isn’t much to like about Jack. We get hints of a tragic backstory without ever really understanding it and it never feels like there is more to him than his addiction.
There’s not much depth to Ally, either, and she seems to be an amalgam of tropes: the dutiful daughter, the gullible ingenue, the nurturer and nag of a recalcitrant man. There are glimpses of her as a feisty amazon but this seems to disappear as her creativity is subverted into a grasp at fame. Although Jack has all the hallmarks of toxic masculinity, the narrative arc, the pathos and the acts of ‘heroism’ are all his.
I was told to bring tissues to this film and of people sitting silently through the credits, mopping their tears. It didn’t do it for me. I felt only relief; that the film was over and that Ally would have a chance at a life free of abuse. But Gaga, she’s worth watching. I hope she does more films.
Have you seen this film? Did you cry? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.