A Star Is Born ★★★

A Star Is Born, one of the most acclaimed films of last year, is certainly notable for several reasons. It's the first iteration of the story for over forty years, and provided Lady Gaga with her breakout role in films. However, whether or not it actually lives up to the hype is another story.

Gaga plays Ally, a waitress and aspiring singer who is lucky enough to be discovered by rock star Jackson Maine while performing a rendition of "La Vie en Rose" in a drag bar. When Jackson provides her with a platform to perform a song she's written, she becomes a big star, surpassing her mentor and eventual husband in fame to the extent that the washed-up Jackson begins to feel himself a millstone around Ally's neck.

Director Bradley Cooper, who also plays Maine, does a great job of bringing the story up to date in terms of aesthetics; there's a tangibly modern feel to the film that sits nicely at odds with the old-fashioned, perhaps even worn-out story. While his performance is good, it's really Gaga's show, and she's incredibly natural on the screen, as well as having the chance to sing brilliantly; "Shallow" is a tour-de-force. Where the film falls down for me is the screenplay. There's no memorable dialogue whatsoever, nor are there any surprises in the characterisation. Plus, I saw the 1954 version years ago, and what I've since read of it and the 1937 version has led me to believe that this story was originally intended as a satire on the brutality of the Hollywood machine. For that reason, the fact that it's since morphed into a story about the music industry seems to have led the tellers of the story to forget about the satirical element, and the resultant narrow focus leaves it without anything sharp or worthwhile to say.

It's seriously let down by its lack of real relevance as well as by the bland script, but these problems aren't enough to sink the soaring work put in by the two leads, nor do they detract from Cooper's striking visual treatment. I will say that Sam Elliott is criminally underused.

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