“Tragedy is a test of courage. If you can meet it bravely, it will leave you bigger than it found you. If not than you will have to live all you life as a coward, because no matter where you may run you can never run away from yourself” – May Robson as “Grandmother Lettie Blodgett” in the original A Star is Born
Before the release of the 3rd remake of 1937’s A Star is Born, the question being asked by many was “why make this thing yet again?” One of the factors is that Hollywood is in love with remakes in recent years. One of the cons is that it is almost impossible to remake a film that is as good or better than the original. There are exceptions of course. 3:10 to Yuma, Ocean’s 11 and True Lies being just a few of those exceptions.
I am happy to report that the 2018 version of A Star is Born, starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga is the latest addition to that list of remakes that are equal to or superior to the original. Cooper has worked with some of the best directors in Hollywood such as Clint Eastwood and David O. Russell and it is clear he learned a lot about working behind the camera from them.
Cooper is “Jackson Maine” a country music singer who seems to be dealing with his hearing loss and other issues by trying to drown them in alcohol. He encounters Lady Gaga’s “Ally” in a place he would not normally have been; in a clear case of kismet inspired “meet-cute.” There is an immediate, intense connection between them. In short order she has quit her job as a server in an upscale restaurant in order to go to a concert where he is performing. He invites Ally to sing with him on stage and in the wink of an eye, she is off to tour with him and his band.
Enter “Rez” (Rafi Gavron – Snitch), a record producer who recognizes that Ally has unlimited potential, provided he packages her the right way. Jackson senses that Rez wants to turn Ally away from country music but refuses to be anything but encouraging. Then he fails to turn up at one of Ally’s gigs. Turns out he was drunk as a skunk and winds up passed out at the home of an old friend of his, “Noodles” (Dave Chappelle – Undercover Brother).
After a spur of the moment proposal and impromptu wedding, the couple settles in at Jackson’s home. Ally’s star is definitely on the rise, but the split with his brother/manager “Bobby” (Sam Elliott – Up in the Air) and Jackson’s continued struggles with booze and pills has him on a sharp downslope. He has an epic meltdown onstage at the Grammy’s where Ally is accepting an award and it is damaging to her career as well as his own. He enters rehab, but what will happen when he comes home is the wildcard.
For those who haven’t seen the 1937 original, it is well worth a viewing. Of the three English language remakes, this may well be the best (there was a Bollywood version made five years ago). Lady Gaga’s acting chops are on par with her musical talents and she brings the heat every second she is on-screen. Bradley Cooper is another exception to the rule that actors who direct themselves usually struggle on at least one side of the camera when doing double duty. Andrew Dice Clay appears only briefly as Ally’s father “Lorenzo” but he is very convincing in the role.
The music is wonderful and there were few dry eyes left in the auditorium by the time the film comes to the end credits.