For a while this year it was beginning to look like we weren’t going to get any five star movies. There were some good films released but nothing seemed like it would nudge that magical five out of five rating. Now comes a flurry of films that deserve that rating – Bad Times At The El Royale, First Man and now a film that I am tipping might have its name read out a few times on Oscars night – A Star Is Born.
Out off the above mentioned five star films I have to confess that A Star Is Born is my favourite. Not only because it centres around one of my greatest loves, the music industry, but also because the film does everything it can to be anti-Hollywood. A number of versions of A Star Is Born have come out of Hollywood over the years, starring everyone from Kris Kristofferson through to Judy Garland but few have ever had the edge that this version has.
The film is Bradley Cooper’s directional debut but Cooper (Guardians Of The Galaxy, American Sniper) also stars as Jack, one of the world’s most popular recording artists but a man who also has some hidden secrets. His alcoholism is wildly out of control and now tinnitus is causing so many problems for his hearing that he is being warned that he may never perform live again. It seems that the only person keeping him going is his business partner and older brother Bobby (Sam Elliott – Road House, The Big Lebowski) but even that relationship is so volatile that it threatens to implode at any moment.
Then after a gig one night Jack looks to find somewhere to drink and in desperation ends up in a Drag Club where the performer is Ally (Lady Gaga – Machete Kills, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For) a brilliant singer and song-writer who is held back by what she believes is ‘ugly looks.’ When the pair meet up though Jack tries to pursue a relationship with Ally whose self doubts get in the way of her chasing a personal relationship or wanting to become a big time artist.
The power of A Star Is Born is that the film does things so differently to what you would expect it to do. I think when most people heard the premise of the film they would have expected it to turn out like a Fame style film for the Glee generation. Instead Cooper as director makes this a film with real grit. The characters talk like they should, complete with long pauses and swearing, these is nudity, there is graphic drug and alcohol abuse. At a time in Hollywood when films with the most painful stories are niced up for audiences here we see a life ruined by alcoholism sink to absolute lowest. Anyone who expects for this to be a Cinderella story can think again.
So where is A Star Is Born likely to pick up its Oscars? Well you get the feeling that this could be multi-pronged attack. As a director Cooper seems to fit into that short list of actors that naturally seem to fit into the role of director with ease – if this film is anything to go by he deserves to be mentioned alongside the likes of Ben Affleck, Clint Eastwood and Joel Edgerton. Cooper is such a natural his style feels like he has been doing this for years – he already has the skill of showing and not telling down pat as he is unafraid to leave a scene with no dialogue or simply show a house lit up by an emergency vehicle’s lights rather than showing the emergency itself.
Then there is the fact that Cooper seems to morph into the character of Jack in a way that we normally expect an actor like Leonardo DiCaprio to do. This is character acting at its very best and could see Cooper land a Best Director and Best Actor double. Surprisingly he is also well supported by Lady Gaga. Gaga is sensational, gone are the meat dresses and what we are left with is an exposed actress laid bare for both her audience and critics alike. The result is a brilliantly dramatic performance that could also land the gifted pop-star a Best Actress Oscar.
It seems weird talking about a film that meld the genres of drama and musical so well without talking much about the music, but really the acting and directing overshadows all of that. Yes the music does play a very important part of the film and both Gaga and Cooper deliver good musical performances… in fact Cooper embraces the role of a role musician eerily well… but really it just fades into the many things that cause greatness in this film.
A Star Is Born is clearly one of the films of the year. There simply is no weakness in this film at all, The film is dramatic and at times harrowing but shows that Hollywood is still capable of showing a hard hitting story when it really wants to. A Star Is Born is pure brilliance and now we have the exciting wait to see what Cooper will choose to direct next.