There is an epidemic happening in Hollywood. In recent years, many studios have chosen to reboot or reinvent classics to resell to a modern audience. I am not a fan of this practice for two reasons: A) it is a gross reselling of our nostalgia back to us not to tell a better story, but to profit and B) it saturates media with unnecessary and unoriginal ideas. When I found out that A Star is Born was being remade for the fourth time, I was torn. I remember signing songs from the Barbara Streisand version with my grandma as a child, but I also think of Lady Gaga as a modern, pop messiah who keeps finding ways to surprise us. Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut seemed destined for failure: in an age where superhero movies always reign supreme (A Star is Born debuted with Venom in theaters) and many original ideas seem to wither in the bottom of the box office, a musical based on a musical based on a musical based on a musical didn’t appear to stand much of a chance.
But lo and behold, a star was born indeed. Multiple stars, actually.
A Star is Born is clever but genius and unique but classic. Though it follows a series of reiterations over the last century (the first starring Janet Gaynor in 1937, then Judy Garland in 1954, and Barbara Streisand in 1976), this take is fresh, contemporary, and authentic. Bradley Cooper took his reins seriously as the director, pushing the envelope of a romantic musical film, making it distinct from movies like La La Land. Lady Gaga joined the pantheon of leading ladies from previous iterations, and though she had very tall heels to fill, she didn’t miss a single step. Cooper and Gaga’s (honestly, a pairing of names I never thought I would mention) chemistry burrows deep in your heart throughout the film. I applauded Gaga when she won a Golden Globe for playing The Countess in American Horror Story: Hotel, but this is light years ahead of that award. We’re talking Academy Award-worthy acting here for both leading roles.
It is, however, the music that sells the movie. Bradley Cooper went through extensive training to copy co-actor Sam Elliot’s cowboy twang to become a country-rock icon (he sounds nothing like Rocket Raccoon). He flawlessly delivers original music as Jackson Maine. Lady Gaga also introduces a diverse array of ear-worm pop songs and heartwarming ballads. Though their vocal performances excel, it is the distinctions of their characters versus the actors that make the big difference: in no way would you think this is Bradley Cooper singing if you didn’t already know, and while Gaga delivers with her signature, strong vocals, the lyrical content is beyond the Rah Rah Ra-Ah-Ah Gaga we know. In fact, she made sure the music released in A Star is Born was as great as her character, Ally, but not the same as Lady Gaga’s music in real life.
A Star is Born is already doing exceptional in the box office and breaking records in the Billboard charts. Decades later, people will remember Gaga’s legendary performance in the same vein they remember Streisand, Garland, and Gaynor. Bradley Cooper is bound to take more directorial roles, but his performance in this movie is also one for the shelves. In an era dominated by remakes, reboots, and superhero adaptations, A Star is Born is a rare spectacle and a guaranteed pop-culture phenomenon.