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‘A Star is Born’: Alongside a Director and Actress

WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER PICTURES INC.

Promotion has been heavy for Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut and Lady Gaga’s big screen debut in A Star is Born. This is the fourth reincarnation of the original 1936 film of the same name. The film is a blended version of the second and third ventures which combines them in a manner to present a breathtaking story about the struggle of addiction and how that addiction trickles down to our loved ones. The film is a tragic love story that allow us to view the inner workings of a relationship’s ups and downs.  It’s a film that focuses on veteran musician Jackson ‘Jack’ Maine (Cooper) discovers the talented Ally (Gaga) in a local bar not far from the location of his last show. Ally has all but given up on her dream, but finds herself persuaded by Jack’s persistence to give her dream one more shot. While at first she is unsure she has a place in the spotlight, others find her singing voice irresistible. As Ally’s career skyrockets, Jack finds his own star fading, leaving him to battle his own demons and conquer his ongoing battle within.

Audiences are sucked into Jack’s world as much as Ally. The camera angles, the closeups, and the lighting all play an equally important role within the feature. We find ourselves thrown in the middle of the ocean and we become okay as we slowly make our way back to the beach. More importantly as audiences get one step closer to the end of the film, we gain an understanding that hits us deep within ourselves. All the gestures and unspoken moments make us do a double take and wonder if any instance can change the outcome of this tragic love story. In many cases we practically plead for the script to take another turn. In many cases as much as the point of view from the film shifts back and forth between our two leads, viewers will ultimately leave the theater wearing Ally’s shoes. We leave feeling every single emotion she left on the stage of her last performance and not questioning for a split second that she’s where she belongs.

The film is not all gloom and doom, but not many moments give the audiences a reason to laugh. However, lots of moments occur to make the audience smile. The gentle nature that Jack shows Ally for most of the film and the words spoken made me smile. Many moments present themselves as tiny glimpses inside Jack and Ally’s lives we should not witness. Moments that show the kinder and softer side of two people deeply in love. Moments that reveal two people willing to do anything for the other so they thrive as well.Though the film might construed at one-sided Jack saves Ally as much as Ally attempts to save him. We are also reminded one of life’s most important lessons. We have to be ourselves and that sometimes we do get lost along the way.

In many instances, Gaga channels an inner Liza Minnelli and forces the world to take notice of her. She is no longer the woman showing up at the MTV Music awards in a meat suit. Gaga demands our attention and gains our approval as not only an actress, but a singer at all. I have always believed that her persona has undermined her talent over the years. Without a question of a doubt Gaga’s voice is phenomenal within the film. When she sings the songs from her heart before getting the record label deal we see a young woman shine and who is in her element. With all the changes that take place within the film we do begin to wonder who is the real Ally?

Much like Jack we refuse to believe that the image the record company has conjured up is remotely true. Ally is more than your typical wannabe singer. She is a woman whose voice deserves to be heard. She has more to say than what she allows herself to say out of fear that all the critics who told her she would never make were right.  What makes this version of this story even better is having a lead actress fed some of the same lines before she broke into the music industry. A woman who knew she had something to say and would not stop until people took notice. A musician that can make us get up and dance as much she can break our hearts.

Cooper has an endearing subtleness about him. It’s easy to understand why Ally loves Jack. Even during the hard times it’s easy to understand why Ally stays with Jack and by his side. This is a person with many flaws, but a person who cares more about the others around him than he does himself. He always tries to do right by those in his life even if getting to that point takes a while. Despite Jack suffering from a drug addiction as well as alcoholism, audiences will continue to feel for him. These are moments where we debate if he should be taking care of himself, but we know ultimately that he is not fully capable of managing his own life. He needs to hit rock bottom in order for him to get his act together. There’s no other way around this and unfortunately we see this take place in a manner absolutely mortifying for not only Jack, but Ally as well.

Jack’s remorse is a genuine examination of a man who almost loses absolutely everything. He knows he needs to do better, but there’s a part of him that cannot.  The disease inside of him will not let him.  In many ways this makes his desire to get his message across appear out of desperation.  This is particularly true during a scene with Ally in the bathtub.  Jack’s ultimate mission is to tell his truth and ensure that others tell their own truth.  By doing so they allow themselves a freedom that he aches to achieve once more.  A truth that means something and will forever showcase him as someone superior than the person we meet during his descent.

As the film delves into the inner workings of our stars, the additions of Dave Chappelle, Sam Elliot, and Andrew Dice Clay are nothing short of spectacular. While Chappelle appears to have the least amount of screen time between the three actors, we do not truly begin to worry about Jack until he does. This is despite the moment where Bobby (Elliot) puts Jack to bed, but this seems par for the course. The whole crew accepts this is who Jack is instead of trying to get him any kind of help. Noodles (Chappelle) admits that he has seen Jack at his lowest, but he has never been as long as when he found him outside of his home. In that scene we meet a man whose friend is truly concerned for the first time ever instead of merely accepting Jack is merely a drunk. Bobby and Lorenzo (Clay) explode on Jack instead in moments where he deserves the harsh words thrown his way. However, their actions do not remotely help him understand the true gravity of the situation he has landed himself in.

Alongside his acting credit, and writer’s credit, Cooper manages to shine just as brilliantly behind the cameras as he does in front of the camera for a stellar directorial debut. When a drama runs two hours and sixteen minutes long, one might expect to get bored. However, these two characters are anything from boring.  While at times we feel awkward for partaking in their story, ultimately we are grateful that we are on their journey.  We want what is best for both Jack and Ally. We want to believe that everything will work out the way it should. I cannot think of a single reason A Star is Born should not receive multiple Oscar nominations this upcoming Academy Award season. There’s also no reason why this soundtrack should not be in every car of each viewer either.  Besides, we’re far from the shallow now.