No film came to TIFF with more overwhelming hype than the latest iteration of A Star is Born. Considered more of a revival than a cinematic redo, Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, featuring mega pop star Lady Gaga, is a fresh new take on the conventional story about a fading music veteran and an up-and-coming star.
Drawing on the previous Oscar-winning 1937, 1954, and 1976 versions, Cooper brings the narrative to the present as a catchy cover of a classic pop song. Detailing Hollywood’s most enduring story of love and ambition in a glorious reinvention, A Star Is Born follows Jackson Maine (Cooper), a once popular musician who is losing his career to substance abuse. His life does a 180 when he discovers Ally (Gaga) a promising singer and songwriter who is on the verge of quitting music altogether. The two find success together both as a couple and as a musical duet, but when Ally’s success begins to outshine Jackson’s career, their romantic future is thrown into jeopardy.
It’s a plot with A LOT going on that takes audiences on a roller coaster of emotions, so many in fact, there’s a moment in the film for nearly every emotion. Spoilers ahead!
The music industry is harsh in its critiques and Ally is no stranger to being judged on her looks—hence why she performs in a drag bar since it’s the only place where the girls will let her sing her own songs. But all of this judgement lingers in Ally’s career, leaving her doubting herself on numerous occasions—a feeling we’ve all dealt with before. Even after winning a Grammy, she still doubts that she’ll be able to succeed with playing the kind of music she genuinely wants to play. Thankfully, Jackson is there to remind her how special and rare her talent is.
The passion runs high for both Ally and Jackson not just when it comes to their music but also their passion for one another. The chemistry is so raw and vulnerable, its realness leaps off the screen into viewers’ hearts. Their passion for each other and what they do radiates in the movie’s music and dialogue, reminding audiences that dreams take constant grind and work, but when you’re passionate about something, you’ll make it happen no matter the cost.
When we first see Ally in A Star Is Born, she’s in a bathroom stall, dumping her boyfriend in the middle of a work shift. She hangs up the phone and storms out, hollering two words: “Fucking men!” This is the first of many moments of frustration for the rising star. Gaga does such a great job of fooling audiences into thinking she isn’t already a major superstar that it’s easy to feel Ally’s frustrations of the up and downs that come with wanting to succeed as a singer.
Jackson may be struck by Ally’s beauty—which counteracts the men who’ve told Ally she isn’t attractive enough to be famous—but he’s also equally as taken with her songwriting and companionship. So it’s just as hurtful for viewers as it is for Ally when Jackson comes into the bathroom after a day of drinking and fights with her in the tub, yelling at her that she’s ugly. It’s a moment fuelled by anger that leaves devastation and hurt in its wake for both the characters and audiences.
When Ally and Jackson first start performing together, their days spent together and nights on the stage are pure bliss for the two. Both couldn’t be happier, grinning from ear to ear in a way that makes viewers see them as a real life couple, longing to have the same feeling. The two are so enthralled with one another, it’s impressive the connection Cooper and Gaga could develop as a first time director and a songstress making her film debut. Needless to say we wouldn’t be mad to see these two work together again.
When Ally’s star finally stars to rise—and Jackson’s seems to be slipping—he’s confused by the direction in which she takes her career. As a rock-country artist with blues and folk influence, Jackson doesn’t understand how Ally can sing along to his songs and then start her own career as a pop star with glittered outfits, catchy radio tracks, and one-dimensional lyrics. She’s also just as equally confused as to why Jackson doesn’t support her regardless.
Maybe it’s the age difference that results in a life experience difference, but the characters have switched pages when it comes to the importance of music and the power of songwriting. Ally has buried Jackson’s poetic explanation of life and music paired down to 12 octaves and opted for whatever will get her famous.
This film may be about the trials and tribulations of Hollywood, but within that, it’s mostly about addiction. Jackson can’t keep off the prescription drugs and alcohol, reaching for them more with each day Ally gets more famous. His addictions get so out of hand, he steals Ally’s moment at the Grammy’s by drunkenly following her on stage, making boisterous comments before collapsing and nearly overdosing. It’s a stint that lands him in rehab where he tells his sponsor a devastating story about how he tried to hang himself at age 13 but the fan just fell right out of the ceiling. They both laugh, but a couple months later, Jackson circles back to this task and succeeds in a movie moment that’s exceptionally hard to watch.
The kind of love in this film is not like rom-com love or puppy love; it’s real love. It’s love at first site, shakes you to your core, gives you goose bumps kind of love. When Ally and Jackson look at one another, it’s like sparks of electricity are shooting across the screen. Audiences can feel their love and can feel the pureness and intimacy that flows through each character. It’s an honest kind of movie love—from the way they kiss, to the way they write songs intertwined with each other, to the way Ally’s always stealing Jackson’s hat; it’s believable.
A Star Is Born, in addition to its soundtrack, is set to be released October 5.