A Star Is Born, starring Lady Gaga and both directed by and starring Bradley Cooper, is the fourth and latest re-telling of the ‘A Star Is Born‘ story following the 1937, 1954 and 1976 versions. The story follows Jackson Maine, a famous yet declining country-rock musician (played by Cooper) who meets Ally (Lady Gaga), a young performer who he swiftly becomes inspired by and falls in love with. 

A Star Is Born is an incredibly raw, natural and emotional story exploring themes of masculinity, fame, passion, addiction, mental health, co-dependency and obviously good ol’ love. The film opens with Jackson performing then getting into his car, being overwhelmed by a high-pitched ringing sound, and then washing down a handful of pills with alcohol straight from the bottle. This introduces Jackson to the audience and from this first scene they now understand the story that is unfolding. Once Jackson stumbles into the nearest bar and meets Ally (Lady Gaga) it becomes clear the two have a strong and instant connection and it doesn’t take long for her to be convinced to stand by him, despite her immediate hesitations. The story then follows the couple through the tempestuous challenges that come with individual hopes, dreams and opportunities while attempting to maintain a healthy and loving relationship. 

The story of A Star Is Born is a relatively basic one: the damaged rock star meets the love of his life and she tries to heal him for better or for worse. The film explores but only vaguely discusses a lot of big issues and the solutions presented are disheartening. 

However, what the film lacks in satisfying storyline it makes up for in the actual production of the film itself. A Star Is Born is Cooper’s directorial debut and it is an incredibly impressive first film. He creates a really interesting visual aesthetic through his use of cinematography and careful choice of colours, lighting and focus. Colours and different types of lighting were both used to create emotion and help the audience to understand the moods and contexts of varied scenes, delivering extra information through visuals rather than relying on the songs and dialogue. The film never over-explains what’s happening and it believes the audience will be able to follow along; there’s no long dialogue explaining any of the events that happen, Cooper just trusts that you know.

Cooper also gets a chance to flex his creative muscles when playing around with focus. A few scenes in the film are shot in a way that makes you focus on something that is happening outside of the focal point. Assuming Cooper goes on to direct more films in the future, this could be the type of attention to detail that would continue to make his films unique and effective in their provocation of intense emotion. It felt as though I was being guided on what to look at, and defying my natural instinct to look at what was in sharp focus and instead look at blurs in the background which was an interesting experience.

Another really noticeable aspect of the film was the number of abrupt jump cuts. Whether it was during a tender moment or in the middle of a song there seemed to be no scene that was guaranteed to play out in its entirety, and this gave the film a really interesting pace. The jump cuts seem to be used to either deliberately disorientate the viewer and show time had passed, or to highlight stark comparisons for example, a jump between a loud, rowdy stage to the quiet of a home.

One aspect of the film that caught me by surprise was the number of musical numbers. Obviously, the trailer makes it clear that it is a film about musicians, but with a soundtrack totally 34 recordings, the film occasionally feels more like a musical than a drama. However, the musical performances themselves are incredible. Bradley Cooper is being internationally recognised for surprising everybody with his impressive singing skills, while Lady Gaga continues to prove what a powerhouse she really is. The songs are emotional, moving and really well written and they help to fill in details about the characters and their situations.

A Star Is Born is an emotional, well-made and heartbreakingly honest portrayal of the human condition. Subtly tackling big issues with a commercially successful cast in front and behind the camera opens the door for important conversations to be had by a broad audience. The story allows for an honest portrayal of the many hardships that face not only those seeking fame, but also those just seeking normality. 

Score: 4/5

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