A Star is Born

Gallons of ink has been spilled about the wisdom of green lighting a remake of a prior film. Here we are faced with the fourthversion of a film that captures the entertainment business turning its lens on itself. Prior versions involved an aging male star invigorating the burgeoning career of a rising female performer. The prior versions (1937, 1954 and 1976) evolved into both leads being singers, and that is the case in this fourth version.

Bradley Cooper steps behind the camera in his directorial debut, and the results are stunning. Known mostly for his roles early in his career as a pretty boy (he debuted on TV’s “Sex and The City”) Cooper showed his edge in “American Sniper.”

In “A Star is Born” he assays the role of Jackson Maine (previously played by Frederic March, James Mason and Kris Kristofferson), a singer relying on past success and alcohol to maintain a semblance of prominence. The rising star is the surprisingly well-cast Lady Gaga as Esther (filling roles previously by Janet Gaynor, Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand).

Cooper has dropped his voice for the role, evoking the delivery of Sam Elliott, who plays the older brother. The comedians Dave Chappelle and Andrew Dice Clay are well cast, belying their comedic backgrounds.

The necessary verisimilitude of the music is crucial to the film’s success. Cooper again reveals his range; not only does he command the film behind and in front of the camera as director and actor, he also handles the singing with aplomb. His band is comprised of Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, who have backed up Neil Young and continue to show promise in their own right.

Lady Gaga has evolved from a spectacle to a real artist. Cooper gives her room to shine, and his understated performance opposite her extends his acting range.

But as a directorial debut, this iteration of “A Star is Born” is destined for many more kudos.

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.