Simon Dillon reviews one of the best films of the year.

A Star Is Born

There are now four versions of A Star is Born and all of them are good. That isn't something you can say about many oft-remade films. The closest competitor would be Invasion of the Body Snatchers (the 1956, 1978 and 1993 versions are all good, with only the 2007 version letting the side down). However, this new A Star is Born rivals the 1954 classic, which I don't say lightly. Bradley Cooper takes his cue from this version and the 1976 take, rather than the somewhat different 1937 not-entirely-original (that itself is a sort-of remake of a less successful 1932 film What Price Hollywood).

Familiarity with any previous version is not required. For Bradley Cooper, this take on A Star is Born is something of a labour of love, and it shows in every frame of his immersive direction. The film opens with rock/country star Jackson Maine (Cooper) popping pills and downing booze as he goes on stage, immediately indicating where his character is headed. However, when he later happens to see Ally (Lady Gaga) perform at a drag queen bar, he recognises her diamond-in-the-rough potential. He helps launch her career, they become lovers, but as she rises, he falls.

Both leads are brilliant. Bradley Cooper is completely convincing as a professional musician past his peak, whilst Lady Gaga is equally superb playing someone initially nervous and awkward, despite her obvious real-life talent as a consummate performer. Needless to say, when Lady Gaga lets rip musically, the film becomes absolutely electrifying. There are some great new songs here, as well as some mild but clever satire on the current pop scene (to Jackson's chagrin, Ally's producer tries to mould her into something more bland and marketable, even though it is clear she has so much more to offer).

It's a nigh-on bulletproof story, and one which actually lends itself very well to a remake every so often. In this case, Cooper puts a fresh spin on the latter section, with Jackson's downfall being less about bitterness and jealousy, and more about a lifetime of emotional trauma and addiction. The latter subject is treated compassionately and humanely, with Ally's unconditional, sacrificial love in the face of Cooper's drunken antics proving particularly moving.

Such brilliant lead performances are sure to end up Oscar nominated. In fact, I expect A Star is Born to have multiple nominations come awards season, as this is unquestionably one of the best films of the year. I suppose I should add a warning about swearing, sexual content and drug abuse for those who appreciate such things, but nonetheless this is a film that I highly recommend. Do go and see it. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.