Few stories are truly original, and “A Star is Born” is no exception. First released in 1937 helmed by Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, retold again in 1954 with Judy Garland and James Mason, and reinvented in 1976 with Kris Kristofferson and Barbara Streisand, the plot is a familiar one – burned out artist past his peak meets fresh and hungry young artist waiting for her chance in the spotlight. Love grows, careers are resurrected, and a star is born. Yet, it is said that whenever a star is born, another must die.
So why reinvent the film a fourth time? Because the story never gets old.
Having watched clips of each of the previous films, I was surprised by my own (and others’) initial reaction to the trailer of the fourth reiteration. Not only was I shocked to hear the voice and raw grit coming out of Hollywood staple Bradley Cooper, but I didn’t even recognize the most stripped down and human representation I’ve ever seen of superstar Lady Gaga…until that moment she opened her mouth.
In a moment, I was on iTunes checking to see if the music is already up for pre-order, and quietly wishing for an acoustic album from the two.
Between the evident on-screen chemistry, gritty singer/songwriter vibe, and epic vocals showcased in a brief clip, it is the evidence of a return to artistry in storytelling that has me excited for this film, set for a release date of October 5. Both actor and musical superstar take on a stripped down appearance and characters that lay all of their previous accolades aside.
In an interview between Cooper as leading man and director, and Lady Gaga as his leading lady and the aspiring star in the story, you could see a commitment to truly tell an authentic love story, nuanced by the real life trials of a life in the spotlight and the challenge of going from nowhere to the top of the charts without losing a soul in the process.
It’s this background that makes Lady Gaga’s approach what I would call extremely transparent and truthful. The list of musicians who have attempted to cross over into acting successfully is short. So many have become stars because of a strategic combination of voice and entertainment quality – a positive when on stage in front of screaming crowds. But behind the camera, it’s the subtle, authentic stewarding of the moment that creates a star.
After this film, I am predicting Lady Gaga will be added near to the top of that successful list. She is truly a revelation. Normally layered beneath heavy costumes and makeup, Gaga is sometimes remembered more for her entertainment value than her voice. This is not the case in “A Star is Born,” where the voice and the raw passion behind it is what steals the moment.
I have a feeling that this film will be an unexpected moment for the superstar, one in which another level of stardom for Gaga will be born – stripped down, raw, passionate, and authentic.
The casting of Cooper as the one to direct and lead his lady into this new experience seems to be a direct hit. Having seen him in a number of roles from slapstick to dramatic, this feels like a more authentic performance from Cooper, relying on nuance and soul rather than charm and humor to tell the story.
October 5 will determine if my estimations are true, but this movie and music fan is thrilled either way to see these two stars strip down to a level of artistry in storytelling that could bring this story to life for a whole new generation.