Director: Bradley Cooper
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott
Genre: Romantic/Musical Drama
Review Rating: 3/5
Bradley Cooper writes, sings, produces, stars and makes his directorial debut in this remake of a remake of a remake, that features pop and multimedia icon Lady Gaga.
The story is well known enough that there is little risk of spoilers in this review:
Fading star heading towards the end of his career music superstar, Jackson Main (Bradley Cooper,) is searching for a place to drink that is still open after a gig, discovers waitress and aspiring singer-songwriter Ally (Lady Gaga) singing Edith Piaf in a drag club. He takes a shine to her and they bond over music and drinks. Jackson helps her launch her career, becomes jealous of her success and an embarrassment in public before the resolution of the film.
Along the way, Sam Elliott is Sam Elliott as Jackson Main’s brother and long-suffering tour manager and there are a number of supporting characters who seem to be fleshed out just enough to avoid cliche, although it is a close run thing.
Jackson Main is played by Cooper as an alcoholic and a substance abuser, who is struggling with tinnitus that may be the end of his career. Cooper’s performance is good and he appears to be channelling Eddie Vedder somewhat as a Country/slightly Grungy Rock legend who sees redemption in helping Ally as he starts her out on her career whilst trying to remind her to stay true to her art. Lady Gaga is charming as the ingenue Ally who is swept along on the early rush of adoration in her career, with ambiguous Music Industry types looking to ride her wave of success, as she tries to maintain her art. Her performance certainly stands up next to Cooper’s and the maintains an innocence and enthusiasm which remains likeable throughout without slipping into being unbelievable and annoying.
The music in this film is solid and fits the character well, although I’m not sure why someone who is discovered singing soulful country/rock ballads is turned into a pop star in the, well, Lady Gaga mould. It is pleasing to see that the songs are performed by the actors, and a number of the songs are credited as having been co-written by Cooper and Lady Gaga, with writing credits for the likes of Lukas Nelson (son of Willie Nelson) and Mark Ronson. The live shows and concert segments are brilliantly staged and very believable with a consistent sense of scale and volume.
The performances of Cooper and Gaga in this film are strong in all areas except one for me. The Romance that springs up between them felt hollow and unearned through the film. There is no chemistry between the two leads that suggest the two are in love, although they appear to be doing and saying all the right things, I found myself not believing the central pillar of this film and so the film falls flat in my estimation. This is a shame, really, as in all other respects, the central performances are immersive and engaging.
In the end, I have not been quite sure how to best score this film. There were parts I enjoyed and other parts where I felt let down. The running time at 135 minutes does drag a little and the film may have been better served coming in nearer the two hour mark. On balance I enjoyed this film and would recommend it if you’re looking for something to watch on a boring day.
REVIEW BY LAWRENCE GILLIES