With three other versions out there, the first from the director of Wings, the first ever Oscar Best Picture, the second from George Cukor, who won an Oscar for My Fair Lady, and the third from the screenwriter of Dog Day Afternoon, could Bradley Cooper make a fourth version worth seeing? With Lady Gaga as his star, absolutely. But what sets it apart?
There are some movies that have been done enough, or so I thought, when I heard actor Bradley Cooper had chosen to reinterpret the thrice-released A Star is Born. Loving the actor and lead actress, the mega-star Lady Gaga, as well as co-star Sam Elliott (who proves for what must be the hundredth time he has far more range than just playing a cowboy), I was determined to approach this new version with an open mind. Not only did it surpass my every expectation, it has validated bone fide hyphenates of director for Cooper and actress for Gaga. Even for someone who has seen every other permutation, A Star is Born, circa 2018, is absolutely worth seeing on the big screen.
What make the film so exceptional is the instant and consistent chemistry between Cooper and Lady Gaga, the spectacular songs and they way they are believably filmed as part of the story, and the balance of great acting and charisma on display by the co-stars. The soundtrack will be an instant classic, with several songs that will be played incessantly through every platform. Lady Gaga will undoubtedly now be placed on the casting A list for leads in any and all studio releases. Cooper, for his part, has already found his next directing gig: he is attached to both star in and direct a Leonard Bernstein bio-pic.
Perhaps a little background on the story’s history onscreen might shed some light on Cooper’s level of cheek at taking on such a classic as his directorial debut. The first incarnation of the movie, at least with the current name, was in 1937, and starred Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, as the up and coming actress, who dons the stage name Vicky Lester, and actor Norman Maine, who is on the way down. It was directed by William Wellman, who won a Best Story Oscar for it, and had already had the distinction of winning Best Film at the first Academy Awards for 1929’s Wings. The second, starring Judy Garland (who was nominated for Best Actress for her role) and James Mason, was directed by the legendary George Cukor, who brought the world The Philadelphia Story, Born Yesterday, and Gaslight, among dozens of classics, but won a Best Director Oscar only once, for 1964’s My Fair Lady. His A Star Is Born ranks #6 on the AFI’s list of best musicals in history. Read full review.