A STAR IS BORN
Directed by Bradley Cooper
Starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper
F.I.V.E. star rating:
F. Form: 2.5 / 5 [style, structure, technique]
I. Impression: 4 / 5 [impact, relevance, provocation]
V. Vision: 2.5 / 5 [audacity, innovation, perspective]
E. Experience: 3 / 5 [enjoyment, engagement, delight]
TOTAL: 60 / 100
As one person rises to fame, another descends. This is a classic story told many times before, in fact this is the fourth time we've seen a star born on screen. The challenge of retelling an age-old narrative is making it feel new. This iteration doesn't give us any surprises except for one: Lady Gaga. She plays Ally who works in a kitchen during the day and by night, performs at a drag bar.
Her rendition of La Vie En Rose catches the eyes and ears of Jackson Maine (played by Bradley Cooper), a famous country singer who we see scull a bottle of whiskey in his car after a live show. He is driven to the bar as soon as the bottle is emptied. Co-writer, director and lead actor Bradley Cooper should be proud for a confident directorial debut - he is firing in all cylinders - but he gets in the way of his own movie. His Jackson Maine’s descent into alcoholism is too much of a downer in the second half.
It drags the momentum of the brilliant first hour towards an anticlimactic finish. I came here to witness a star birth, not a black hole. A full moon, not an eclipse (ok, I'll stop). This is because the emotional beats in the second half feel unearned and rushed. The tragedy becomes less so when it feels both inevitable and abrupt. Jackson Maine visits an old friend after blacking out from the night before and while he’s there, he makes a big life decision. This sequence feels as incongruent as a dream.
Everything feels rushed and nothing sticks emotionally. By the second half, it feels like the director is just ticking boxes until the end, lacking the urgency, stakes and romance from the first hour. Cooper’s directorial decisions takes away so much from Lady Gaga’s out-of-this-world performance, both as a singer and an actor. You can see it during the concert scenes where the sound design compensates for the poorly guided camerawork.
The sound is much more dynamic, ramping up the roar of the crowd in the right moments, honing in on Lady Gaga’s voice during intimate parts of a song and letting it soar to the heavens when she belts it out. The camera however, is set mostly on close-ups which works well for those intimate moments but when overused, loses the unique energy of a live performance - that oscillation between the intimate and spectacular.