When we heard Lady Gaga was going to be in the latest remake of A Star Is Born, we thought: of course she is. The role is vocal heavy by a character who overcomes self-doubt to become a pop star. Not much of a stretch. She won a Golden Globe for her role in American Horror Story: Hotel, so we knew she could act.
She could have phoned it in and been fine with good reviews. But that’s not Gaga.
She can act. She elevates her game. She elevates the movie. She elevates a cast that’s so strong it didn’t even need elevating.
This film is as perfectly cast as we can imagine. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga turn in amazing performance, and each is confident enough to know when to cede a moment to the other.
Bradley’s voice is consistently tough and rough. We’ve talked with him several times and there is no way he ever sounds like this in real life. To keep it up for an entire movie makes us think someone was dubbing over his voice! As an aging singer losing his grip on his professional tools he is amazingly believable.
With this added to a resume that includes Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, and American Sniper, we can officially say he is one of the most versatile actors plying their trade today.
Lady Gaga’s vocals are brilliant. There are very few stars who could pull off these songs and that isn’t the most difficult part of the job. But here, the music and performances is the easy part.
As Ally she is tough but vulnerable. Talented but insecure. Confident but fearful. Ally knows what she’s getting into when she falls for Jack. As they move through their relationship Gaga brings a perfect balance of vulnerability, self-preservation, and soul crushing compassion.
Sam Elliot, Andrew Dice Clay, and Dave Chappelle are key supporting players who bring perfect performances to round out the story. As the director, Cooper coaxes them to bring out exactly what is needed from each. Nothing more, nothing less. Sam should easily be in the Supporting Actor conversation. and Dave could have been if he’d been in one more scene. We don’t see a lot of him but, as we mentioned, any more of him (or the other supporting characters) would have felt forced and gratuitous.
Awards Season Is On
A Star is Born is a worthy film to kick off awards season. The trailers released months ago got people talking, but the buzz machine kicked into high gear coming out of Toronto International Film Festival.
We’ll talk more about its specific awards prospects later, but this has all the hallmarks of an awards film and just feels like it’s gonna bring home some hardware.
From alcoholic, deaf Jack to talented but insecure Ally. From Elliot’s tough love Bobby to Chappelle’s BFF vibe George “Noodles” Stone, these are characters that won’t just stay with you, they will haunt you for weeks to come. No doubt producers hope they haunt voters through mid-February!
This story will invite you in and then slowly tighten its grip on your psyche. You will be as invested in the movie as the actors are in their characters.
This movie is a slow burn, and you can’t put an exact moment when you, as a viewer, are all in. The movie isn’t power intensity from the word go. The drag bar scene is funny (and amazing as we hear Gaga sing a French torch song), their first night in a hotel room is telling. Somewhere along the way, you will be all in and may not even realize it.
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
Cooper’s character Jack is an alcoholic, to the point that it makes us look sober! And while he’s definitely troubled, his cocktail game is on point. He orders a gin when at the drag show.
So we’re in for a gin rocks with a lemon twist. It will numb some of the emotional pain you feel by the time this ride ends.