TIFF 2018: A Star Is Born
Lady Gaga is truly immense in Bradley Cooper's adaptation of this classic story of love and fame, which glows with a poignant beauty
A Star Is Born – a musical drama soaked in a haze of tragedy – marks a staggeringly accomplished debut for first-time director Bradley Cooper. This effort is the third remake of the original film from 1937 and pairs charming songwriting with powerhouse performances.
Taking the lead in front of the camera as well as behind, Cooper is troubled singer-songwriter Jackson Maine, lost in the loneliness of fame and nursing a severe drug and alcohol dependency. On a post-gig hunt for a fix, he stumbles into a drag bar to find young singer Ally (Lady Gaga) on stage, singing Edith Piaf’s La Vie En Rose to an enthralled audience. It is love at first sound for Jackson, and soon Ally’s voice and presence become his sanctuary. As they fall in love, her career begins to bloom and he gradually falters in the face of his many demons. It is Ally who picks up the pieces over and over again, bound to the man who saw in her what everybody else rejected.
The first hour of the film is near-perfect, a blur of colour, music and romance that lights up the chemistry between Cooper and Gaga and makes their voices soar. Gaga is truly immense throughout, delivering a wonderfully grounded and subtle performance with bursts of that electricity that has so invigoratingly defined her pop career. Cooper is also compelling, spinning in a slurred daze that we feel in the cinematography as much as his acting. Lights dance across the screen and fans in the crowd blend into one in the often beautiful chaos of Jackson’s life.
It is the second half that stumbles a little, the story growing baggier and more muddled in parts. The film finds its feet again towards the end in navigating the excruciating humiliation and heartbreak that becomes woven into the couple’s relationship. Their lives are tangled together, and they must fight to protect each other in the toxic waters of a music industry that looks set on destroying them. Jackson struggles with “the hot air and the history” that seem to plague him at every turn, and his fiery desperation for the music around him to really have something to say is a mantra that turns sour when Ally’s career choices seem less than sincere to him.
The film has many things to say: on the sadness of addiction, on the joys of music, and on the bonds we share with those we love that can at least try to repair anything. A Star Is Born has its flaws but it glows with a poignant beauty throughout.
A Star Is Born had its North American premiere at Toronto International Film Festival and is released in the UK 5 Oct by Warner Brothers. For more of our TIFF coverage, head to theskinny.co.uk/festivals/international-festivals
Follow Caitlin Quinlan on Twitter at @csaquinlan