why lady gaga’s a star is born will go all the way to oscars glory
In his retelling of the 81 year old story, first-time director Bradley Cooper has achieved everything that the movie business should be: pure, unadulterated escapism.
A Star Is Born is released in theatres this week, and with it begins its inevitable climb to award season glory. The film has all the momentum, all the chemistry. A big, Hollywood crowd pleaser that hits you right in the solar plexus.
First-time directed by and starring Bradley Cooper, it follows the story of hard-drinking musician Jackson Maine as he falls in love with unknown singer-songwriter, Ally, played with aching, commanding emotion by Lady Gaga. We’ve written extensively about Gaga before; about how her last record, Joanne, had potential to be the beginning of a genuinely thrilling second act. We were half right: the second act starts here.
The chemistry between herself and Cooper is infectious. This is the fourth iteration of A Star Is Born, which began 81 years ago with Janet Gaynor and Fredric March in 1937; Judy Garland and James Mason in the 1954 remake; and Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson in the 1976 version. Both actors are certain to be nominated for their roles at next year’s Oscars. Both -- if the reaction at Venice, where the movie premiered, and Toronto, where the movie screened, is anything to go by -- will win. Why? Because what Cooper has achieved in his own retelling is everything that the movie business should be: it is pure, unadulterated escapism.
A Star Is Born feels like a movie only in the right places. The dialogue between Gaga and Cooper remains thrillingly natural. Words are stumbled over. Lines are misheard. The music, too, is recorded live and the concert scenes, shot on location at Coachella and Glastonbury, are perhaps the most faithful to have been committed to screen. Cooper has described wanting to make a movie that succeeds in placing the viewer on stage. He does so, and the scene in which Ally joins Jackson in concert for the first time is nothing short of magic.
Perhaps there’s something in the air. The year’s other odds-on Oscar contender, Damien Chazelle’s La La Land follow-up, First Man, is another big studio movie (Universal), doing exactly what big studio movies should do; transporting the viewer to somewhere other than the here and now (specifically: the moon). The same could be said for Alfonso Cuarón’s Netflix-distributed Roma, too, a film that faithfully recreates the Mexico City of the early 70s, with its own knockout Best Actress performance courtesy of first time star Yalitza Aparicio. In fact, there’s something telling about the way in which issue-based movies such as crystal meth chronicle Beautiful Boy and gay conversion drama Boy Erased have played less well with audiences this year. We have enough trauma in the news cycle and need movies as a means of escape more than ever.
To next year’s Oscars then. In a rerun of 2017’s Best Picture-gate, Chazelle is set to be up against Barry Jenkins, whose If Beale Street Could Talk will surely see him nominated for Best Director for the second time. Cuarón will be there too, up against Widows director Steve McQueen, whose 12 Years a Slave pipped Gravity to the Best Picture gong in 2013. You can’t help but feel that the one to beat, however, will be this: a big, emotional movie that reminds you exactly why big, emotional movies exist in the first place. A star is born. Yes, it is.