The fourth version of the classic tale titled A Star Is Born is belting it out for a new generation in 2018, following versions that were released in 1937, 1954 and 1976. The first two films are centered around the acting world and the last two around music. Fans of the previous versions will no doubt spot how various elements from each incarnation have been repackaged in this year's film.
Bradley Cooper, who directed, plays the already famous singer Jackson Maine ( an homage to legacy character Norman Maine ) and Lady Gaga plays Ally ( no last name and named Esther in previous versions ), a struggling performer with big dreams.
Maine wanders into a gay bar and hears Ally singing Edith Piaf's "La Vie en Rose." He meets her in the dressing room, she removes her makeup and we all start to fall in love with her. Things get complicated as the two date, marry and experience episodes with addiction.
Cooper and Gaga's chemistry is undeniable, and following an early screening in Chicago, Cooper said that the production team halted the filming for two months to workshop the piece. It certainly paid off.
The film includes many cameos, among them foul-mouthed funnyman Andrew Dice Clay, who plays Ally's father; and another comedian, Dave Chappelle, who plays Maine's best friend. Viewers may also recognize Anthony Ramos, who plays Ally's best friend, from Hamilton. Sam Elliott gives another grounded performance as Bobby, the brother and manager of Maine. RuPaul Drag Racers D.J. 'Shangela' Pierce and Willam Belli ( whom Gaga hand-picked ) are also given a few good one-liners.
Cooper is impressive as a first-time director, with shots that flow together from Maine's massive concert scenes to simple home life with Ally. At one point, the camera pans over to a picture on the wall, giving a glimpse of Ally's mother and telling the audience all they need to know about this family tree. Cooper knows how to keep scenes intimate and not veer into melodrama, allowing the leads ample opportunity to create raw, emotional performances on the big screen. The movie is meant to be watched in a Dolby Cinema theater, so seek one out as Cooper suggested at the Q&A.
As an actor, Cooper is very likable and that carries over into his character onscreen. Maine suffers tinnitus, an ear condition, along with his multiple addiction issues. Many actors would have gone overboard, especially playing an alcoholic, but Cooper hits the right notes.
He also complements Gaga's singing and holds his own on the riveting duet "Shallow." When Ally's career moves into her performing shallower pop songs, you can see Jackson appear frustrated without him overdoing it. This makes his character drink more and the cycle continues.
Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta ( aka Gaga ) hits notes not usually heard from her, and bares her soul in a moving performance that is not to be missed. While she may not take home all the trophies during the upcoming awards season because of the stiff competition, she has proven with this project that she can cross over into the world of starring roles.
At one point in the movie, Ally sits in a parking lot frustrated with her flailing success. I couldn't help thinking of the time she performed at Windy City Media Group's Idol competition at the finals and she sat outside the club on the curb and no one wanted an autograph. She has since proven she's a star worthy of more attention, and this movie is a reflection of her meteoric rise in the music world. Sometimes you have to pay your dues in a gay club and fight your way to the top, making one fan at a time. I predict she will now do this in the acting world and silence any of the doubters. Happy new birthday, Gagaan acting star is born on Oct. 5.
A Star Is Born opens nationwide Friday, Oct. 5.
Also see www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/The-many-lives-of-A-Star-is-Born/64270.html .