“I’m off the deep end, watch as I dive in, I’ll never meet the ground,” sings Lady Gaga on stage with Bradley Cooper in the new film “A Star is Born”. It’s the song that introduces Gaga and Cooper’s on-screen relationship and the film. It’s an invitation. Fall into the world of Ally and Jackson Main, their love and their music.
The film follows Ally, played by Gaga, an aspiring singer/songwriter who has all but given up on stardom before she meets washed-up country star Jackson Main, played by Bradley Cooper. Main helps Ally realize her full potential, coaxing her into the spotlight and taking her on tour with him. The two fall in love, but as Ally’s career takes off, their personal relationship begins to deteriorate. This is due, in part, to Main’s alcohol and drug addiction.
Gaga plays Ally with a palpable authenticity. Her performances are raw and emotional. We first get a glimpse of Ally’s talent when she takes the trash out at work and waltzes through the alleyway singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” A few bars of the song in, and it’s apparent that Ally has something special. A few scenes later, Ally belts “La Vie En Rose.” It’s enchanting and awe-inspiring.
Gaga’s talent as a vocalist is no secret, but it’s her acting chops that truly impress. When Ally performs in front of a crowd of thousands for the first time, she’s anxious and afraid. Gaga, a seasoned musician who plays sold-out arenas, portrays Ally’s timid confusion with an expertise striking for someone making their silver screen debut.
Much of Ally’s character is based on Gaga’s own rise to fame. Cooper, who also directs the film, spent hours interviewing Gaga about her experiences in the music industry. She spent the early days of her career singing in drag bars on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. When Jack and Ally meet for the first time, Ally is singing in a drag bar that Jack has stumbled into just looking for a drink.The nod to Gaga’s own life gives the film a more profound personal element.
While Gaga blossoms on screen, Cooper’s Jackson Main slowly succumbs to addiction as the film progresses. The only thing keeping him from self-destructing is Ally. Jack’s addiction is thoroughly explored. He tries to beat it, falls back into it, embarasses himself because of it. Cooper brings the tragedy of addiction to heartbreaking attention with his portrayal of Jack. Jack is a broken but loveable man, and Cooper finds the sweet spot in Jack’s character to bring him to life.
Underlying the gripping relationship is the film’s soundtrack, co-written by Gaga and Cooper. Much of Ally and Jack’s story is told through song. The melodies are catchy, the lyrics unique, and the vocals powerful. The live performances bring authenticity to the film. Gaga and Cooper sing every track, because this film is about Ally and Jackson Main. The film’s main focus is Ally and Jack, their music, and their relationship, and the soundtrack reiterates this.
“A Star is Born” offers an intimacy between the couple and the audience, drawing them effectively into the film. As the story unfolds, Jack and Ally come to life on-screen and we fall in love with the Mains. You laugh with them, you cry with them, but, ultimately, your heart breaks for them.