Our guest writer/correspondence John H Foote writes from TIFF18, about Bradley Cooper’s Directorial Debut – A Star Is Born
Wow! Talk about knocking it out of the park! In his directorial debut, Bradley Cooper creates the finest of A Star is Born films, far surpassing the 1976 version and eking by the Judy Garland version. Further, he gives the finest performance of his career as a rock star, chronic boozer and drug addict, Jackson Main a gifted artist on the downside of his career. Too much booze, too many pills, too much cocaine has cost Main so much and he knows it. One night after a show he stumbles into a bar and hears Ally (Played by Lady Gaga) sing and is smitten by both her beauty and her obvious talent. He encourages her to write her own songs and drags her out on the stage with him, making her a star overnight. When a hotshot manager offers to sign her, she goes along, though is not pleased when he demands changes be made.
Main despises the changes, wanting her to just be honest in her music, to be the real Ally. But Ally climbs, they marry and her career soars as his sinks. On the night of the Grammy Awards, he causes her a terrible embarrassment and hurts her deeply. With rehab the only answer he checks himself in to get clean, but when released he realizes the drag he has become on her career. In a right between the eyes conversation with her manager he is told the damage he did and what she had to do to get past it.
Bradley Cooper has become one of the finest actors of his generation the last six years, with three Academy Award nominations and pocketfuls of rave reviews. His great performance in ‘American Sniper’ (2014) challenged the actor more than any role until this one. Jackson Main is the greatest challenge of his career and he gives the finest performance of his career. Weary, beaten down by the emotional turmoil in his life, his past, the arguments with his brother, whom he loves very much, his voice a near growl from too many years of heavy smoking and hard whiskey, and watching his wife soar past him on the charts, Cooper captures that bone-weary exhaustion of a man at the end of his rope. The one thing he has that is constant in his life is Ally, and he knows or comes to know he is hurting her by being with her.
Lady Gaga is already a big star as a recording artist, so making it in acting is not that big a deal for her. That said Madonna never quite managed to be a great actress or give even a good performance. Gaga is spectacular, giving a breathtaking performance that audiences will adore and critics will write raves about. She is never anything but truthful in her work, the chemistry between she and Cooper is electric and her final song will have tears cascading down your face. Expect each to be nominated for Best Actor and Best Actress, along with Sam Elliott who is wonderful as the wounded brother who watched his younger sibling become the star he hoped he would. That voice, sounding like dark chocolate and a bass guitar is perfect, and the old boy just might be an Oscar nominee for the first time.
The concert scenes are stunning, filled with the energy of the audience on screen, but flowing down to allow the audience in the cinema to be one with them. Who knew Cooper could sing? Who knew he could play a mean guitar? His greatest achievement here is, of course, directing the film and bringing everything together. The trust between the actors if due to his direction, the trust he instilled in his cast, the comfort he brought to the set allowing them the freedom to create. Two stars are born with this film, Gaga as an actress, and Cooper as a director.
It is a magnificent achievement, potentially the years’ very best film!
The Cinemawala Rating: 4/5