When you stand too close to the subway platform and feel the wind from the train breathe across your body, there is a moment where time pauses. Your stomach drops, your eyes widen and your heart skips a beat. In a split second, the rush is gone, the wave of heat you felt creep through you moments before subsides, but your heart keeps pounding, alert and on edge. This same surge of adrenaline is exactly what “A Star is Born” gifts its audience, an unexpected drop into a mesmerizing world of music and intimacy. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s collaboration is nothing short of wondrous, inexplicably captivating with every note sung and every gaze shared. Though a remake of a classic tale, Cooper’s film gracefully forges its own path and leaves us all stunned into a state of awe with its heart-swelling chemistry, entrancing lyrics and a sense of electricity and vibrancy.
Working in a restaurant by day and moonlighting as a supporting act singer in a local drag club, aspiring artist Ally (Lady Gaga, “American Horror Story”) is a far cry from living in the spotlight. Though independent, spirited and tremendously talented, Ally clearly grapples with her unconventional beauty, which has played its part in blocking her from breaking into the industry thus far. Her luck changes, however, when one fateful night, steady, down-to-earth celebrity musician Jackson “Jack” Maine (Bradley Cooper, “Silver Linings Playbook”) coincidentally staggers drunk into the drag bar where Ally is performing. The connection between the two is almost otherworldly, intense, yet pure. Mesmerized by Ally’s voice, Jack invites her out for a drink and, by the end of the night, asks her to accompany him to his show the next night. Ally’s life is turned upside down, as she is thrown into the limelight at Jack’s side and subsequently rocketed by her talent into a spotlight of her own.
First things first, let us acknowledge that Gaga and Cooper are nothing short of sensational in this film. From the start, they delude us into thinking that what we are about to witness will be one musician’s rise to fame and another’s fall from it. But the real magic of “A Star is Born” is its tangibility. Gaga and Cooper personify Ally and Jack so deeply that we swear we could reach across the screen and touch them. The connection they share is between them and them alone, and though their relationship is challenged by Jack’s struggles with alcohol, they remain somehow untainted by the elements of lust, money and fakeness that surround them. Their love is not one manufactured for an audience, which is exactly why we can’t take our eyes off of the screen.
Aside from making all of our hearts bleed in longing for a love like theirs, Cooper and Gaga’s musical chops, both solo and in tandem, craft a soundtrack of gold. As a six-time Grammy winner, Gaga isn’t exactly a novice in the singing department. However, this makes her performance as Ally no less powerful. Unlike popular pieces from Gaga’s body of work, when she performs live as Ally up on stage, we get a taste of her voice without an ensemble of synthesizers and other instruments. And it is staggering. Her passion behind every lyric she sings and every melodic note she hits echoes in our ears long after the screen goes black. Now, of course, we can’t forget about Cooper, who kicks of the film with a foot-thumping number that sends chills of excitement down our spines. Cooper’s throaty, country-rock style is harmonized alongside Gaga’s belting vocals and somehow it just works. Leaving the theater (after wiping away hysterical tears), we can’t refrain from immediately downloading every track on Spotify, prepared to put Gaga and Cooper’s blissful melodies on repeat.
Evidence of Cooper’s brilliance as a director is the fact that never once do we look on screen and see Bradley Cooper, dazzling and uber-famous actor, and Lady Gaga, eccentric and fearless pop superstar. We see only Jack and Ally. Just as their characters’ love miraculously shadows them from the toxic culture of fame that surrounds them, Cooper and Gaga morph so convincingly into their roles that we forget any knowledge of their celebrity outside of the film, unable to see them as anything but two people hopelessly in love. One thing is for certain: What Gaga and Cooper have given us all with “A Star is Born” is timeless. We can’t shake the fantasy of a love so raw and real, just as we can’t erase the film’s haunting, yet stunning lyrics from our minds. Surging with emotional energy, the deepest of sorrow and the greatest of love, “A Star is Born” is a soul-shaking epic that is, quite simply, unmissable.