Bradley Cooper wants to make you cry. And if you give him a chance by going to see “A Star Is Born,” he’s gonna do it.
Some folks might wonder why we needed a remake of this classic tearjerker about a star who helps a nobody, then descends into addiction while the nobody rises to stardom.
But others will want to see Lady Gaga in her first big movie role. And if they’re fans, they will not be disappointed. Even though Cooper stars as the boozy country rock star, Gaga steals the show, belting out ballads that are sure to make up one of the best movie soundtracks in years.
Both Cooper and Gaga performed their songs live for the film, rather than lip-syncing, and this lends an air of authenticity to the proceedings. Cooper is surprisingly good as Jackson Maine, and he has obviously worked on his rock star persona, as well as his vocals.
The surprise, however, is that Cooper, as a director, has been so generous to his co-star. He gives Lady Gaga’s Ally nearly all of the best moments, from the beginning, when he sees her in a late-night gay bar, where’s she’s the only woman singing among the drag-queen lip-synchers.
He’s enchanted. She is, too. They go out for a few drinks. He tells her she’s great. She says, aw, shucks. Then she sings a little ditty she wrote for herself. He says it’s great. She says, aw, shucks. He says come to my show tomorrow night. She says, aw, shucks, thanks, but I have a day job. And after an aw, shucks here and an aw, shucks there, she’s backstage at his concert. And he asks her to come on stage and sing that little ditty with him — before a huge audience.
And, aw, shucks if she isn’t great.
Yes, the screenplay could be better. It follows a tried-and-true tale that’s familiar to most moviegoers older than 30. And some scenes seem downright manipulative. (I tried to keep my distance from the emotional churnings. Don’t bother. It’s impossible. Bring tissues.) The fact of the matter is that no one is going to see the latest iteration of “A Star Is Born” for its screenwriting.
Most people simply want to see Lady Gaga soar as Ally, the daughter of a limo driver (Andrew Dice Clay). And she does.
She and Cooper collaborated on most of the songwriting, with an assist on some of the tracks from Lukas Nelson. The showstopper song is Lady Gaga’s “I’ll Never Love Again.” Look for a performance at the Oscars. It’s inevitable. And “showstopper” might be too mild of a term for this performance.
Cooper gets his big moments with some of the early songs, most notably “Black Eyes,” which he co-wrote with Nelson. And Cooper and Lady Gaga perform doe-eyed duets on several early songs, including “Music to My Eyes” and “Diggin’ My Grave.” But by the mid-point, Cooper’s Jackson is popping way too many pills and swigging way too much bourbon to do anything more than stagger around.
Most of the ballads, as you might have guessed, are about love and loss. And, let’s face it. We’ve all been there. So we might as well have a good cry every now and then. “A Star Is Born” is guaranteed to embrace the tracks of your tears — all the way to the box-office bank.
“A Star Is Born” had its international premiere at the Venice Film Festival and then was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, where this review was written. It opens nationwide Oct. 5.