This oft-filmed showbiz saga proves as fresh as ever thanks to the electrifying performances from Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. 5/5 stars
Cooper’s hard-drinking country-rock star Jackson Maine can’t tear his eyes from Gaga’s aspiring singer-songwriter Ally in this rousing rock ‘n’ roll version of the tale. He’s not the only one – the camera loves her, too.
She has stripped off the make-up to take on the part – previously played by Janet Gaynor with Fredric March in 1937, Judy Garland alongside James Mason in 1954 and, of course, Barbra Streisand opposite Kris Kristofferson in 1976 – and produces a nakedly real performance that is absolutely riveting.
Although the new movie brings this bittersweet showbiz saga up to date, there’s something reassuringly old-fashioned about it as well. The pair’s tragic romance follows the same course as their predecessors – established star becomes the mentor, lover and stage partner of a struggling ingénue, but as her career takes off his begins to slide…
The tale has an almost mythic quality and Cooper and Gaga tap into its archetypal power. However, just as importantly, they make this new telling fresh, cannily borrowing details from Gaga’s own career and persona to flesh out her character.
The film’s music has similar conviction. When Ally performs Edith Piaf’s La Vie en rose at the drag club where she encounters Jack, her singing gives us goosebumps. But it’s even more gob-smacking when she first joins him on stage at one of his concerts, then she brings the house down with her final song that will bring a lump to your throat.
The film is a undoubtedly a triumph for Gaga, but equally so for the similarly wonderful Cooper, who not only stars but directs, co-writes and had a hand in many of the songs. Nominated for eight Oscars, it won for best song.