Bradley Cooper had considerable guts and nerve to take on such an iconic and multi-time filmed story as this, not only as his directing debut but to play the more onerous of the star parts - novice-to-film Lady Gaga taking the co-star role. And guess what? He pulls it off with some distinction. Regret to say, however, that if one is familiar with all or just one of the three previous versions (1937, 1954 with Judy Garland, and 1976 with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson) one already knows that there isn't much scope for any startling imaginative variation from the story of two intertwining lives, her career rising to super-stardom while his tanks under the influence (in this film) of both drugs and alcohol.
At the start of the film, successful singer Cooper, already heavily into drugs and booze, happens to wander into a drag bar where small-time, local turn, played by Lady Gaga, impresses him with her rendition of 'La Vie en Rose'. For him it's pretty well love at first sight, while she's more circumspect, especially attracting the attentions of someone so famous, but she goes along with his not-so-furtive flirt until at a major music festival he coaxes her onstage to perform a song with him. From then on the die is cast and it's upwards for her, descent for him.
The ever-reliable Sam Elliott (what a voice!) plays Cooper's character's hovering-in-the-background, elder brother, frequently exasperated at his sibling's antics and failed struggles with his inner demons, but despite all, still doggedly faithful.
Most of the songs - and all the new ones - were especially written by Lady Gaga with Lucas (son of Willie) Nelson - with some by Mr Cooper too (I've just heard from the radio). They may well require repeated hearing as for me, now just two hours later, I can't recall a single one of them.
With regards to acting, Lady Gaga was remarkable, displaying a wide spectrum of moods and emotions in her debut role, all convincing - and Cooper as good as he's ever been, possibly his best ever in his grungy character. How he made such a good job of directing the whole enterprise at the same time is itself extraordinary.
I think the film will work best of all with those who don't know much about the story - and by now this could well be the majority of cinema-goers. Speaking for myself, although of course details varied from previous incarnations, the essential story is predictable, there being no notable material differences in the two characters' trajectories as previously portrayed, with the result that I found it all a bit tiring (two and quarter hours) to get to the destination which I knew, in a general sort of way, was coming.
This vehicle is sure to attract a number of Oscar nominations and will almost certainly pick up some strategic ones. My single regret as previously stated, was the feeling, details aside, of having seen it all before - which many of us will have done - and inwardly wishing Cooper had chosen something original for his directing debut. Nevertheless, what he does give us is a film of some significance all round..................7.
( IMDB.........8.6 / Rott. Toms................8.1 )
1 hour ago