You recall the recent article I wrote called “3 Stars are Born?” Those were the original versions before Bradley Cooper directed and starred in the latest version. The first movie, with Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, came out in 1937, the second, with Judy Garland and James Mason, came out in 1954, and the third, with Kris Kristofferson and Barbara Streisand, came out in 1976. No matter what I hear about the third one being the best, I think my favorite would be the second.
Now, let’s talk about the new version. I took my mother to an advanced Dolby screening of it on a Tuesday night, and we both enjoyed it. Sure, I pretty much knew what would happen, because of the other three versions I’ve seen, but the way Cooper brings them to life is pulsating. And if you haven’t seen the others, I promise I won’t spoil anything for you. Just note: this is one of the best remakes.
Cooper directs himself as Jackson Maine, a drug-addict and alcoholic singer, who lost his hearing in one ear, and refuses to wear hearing aids on stage. One night after a show, he stumbles into a bar, and finds a young songwriter with a voice. Her name is Alley (Lady Gaga), and she tells him she doesn’t sing her own songs, because of how people think her nose is too big. Jackson thinks she’s beautiful. And when he brings her out on stage to perform, she becomes a sensation.
She gets discovered by Interscope Records (Rafi Gavron plays the producer), but she never gives up on Jackson, even if his alcoholism becomes a threat. Even the singer himself feels horrible about it.
The movie’s cast also consists of Sam Elliott as Jackson’s older brother and manager, who’s at his wit’s end with his behavior. And you also get Andrew Dice Clay as Alley’s loving father, Anthony Ramos as her good friend, and Dave Chapelle as an old friend of Jackson. What a cast!
The chemistry between Cooper and Gaga is utterly amazing, ranking with the original actors of the remakes. They deal with the same issues, and yet, they’re given different elements. Jackson takes steroids and snorts coke before a show, while Alley comes from a crappy job. And they’re both given supporting characters to guide them through. And, for those of you who’s seen the remakes, there is no businessman exposing their marriage. That’s fresh.
The movie also allows iPhones, “Saturday Night Live,” and the Grammys to morph into movie’s music industry without seeming generic or cliche. And you won’t believe how emotional the actors get, particularly from Cooper, Gaga, and Elliott. Each movie is based on current situations and popular activities, and Cooper’s version is no different.
This is his best (non Rocket Raccoon) work since “American Hustle.”