Apologies to the small number of loyal readers who eagerly await the arrival of a new blog post – I’ve been going through one of those phases where so much, and yet so little, of interest seems to be happening in the world, that I just can’t summon up the enthusiasm to write about anything at all. The news just seems to have been all Labour Party conference, and Tory Party conference, and the never ending Brexitshambles, and yet more revelations about the would-be assassins of Sergei Skripal, and now Turkey accusing Saudi Arabia of murdering one of its most well-known journalists, and more than a few times I’ve been tempted to write something about the whole Brett Kavanaugh debacle but really, what is there to say that hasn’t already been said? My Libran tendency to see both sides of every situation means I simultaneously find Ford’s testimony very credible, while absolutely insisting that Kavanaugh is innocent until proven guilty. And yes, I could say a great deal more, and fill an entire blog post, but to be honest I don’t particularly fancy the grief that would likely come my way from both sides of the debate if I were to do so.
So instead I’m going to write about Lady Gaga. And Bradley Cooper. Because wow. If the pairing itself doesn’t seem bizarre enough – she of the mad hairdos, caked-on make-up and who can ever forget that meat dress? – he of the gorgeous blue eyes, stunning smile, overall general hunkiness – it turns out when you put the two of them together, showing both of them in as glamourless a light as possible (him as a fading alcoholic rockstar, her as a wannabe singer with a hidden talent for songwriting, working in a restaurant to pay the bills and occasionally giving late-night performances at the local drag club) – they are absolutely electrifying.
I never saw any of the previous versions of ‘A Star is Born’ so had absolutely no idea what to expect of the film – my mum wanted to see it, the reviews were outstanding and I thought “Huh – Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga – that could be interesting”. So I agreed to go. And in the first few minutes of the film, I was almost tempted to walk straight out because it was LOUD! I mean seriously loud – a full-on assault on the eardrums as the film opens with Cooper’s character (Jackson Maine) on stage in front of a massive audience – the stereophonic whine of his guitar strings actually made my teeth ache. Manchester University students who recently decided to use ‘jazz hands’ in place of clapping in order to be more inclusive to those who can’t stand the sound of loud applause, would be advised to steer well clear of this film. Or at least the first few minutes. Plus a couple of other scenes later on. The revelation, in a subsequent scene, that Maine suffers from chronic tinnitus, comes as no great surprise.
At heart this is a love story – but not the simple “boy-meets-girl, few ups and downs before happily-ever-after” theme of so many Hollywood romances. Rather this is a story of love blossoming between two people at opposite ends of their career trajectories – him on the way out, her waiting to be discovered – and the highs and lows experienced as they find their fortunes reversed, as she goes on to megastardom while he struggles to cope with his jealousy, all the while the pressures of the rockstar life ensuring that decisions are never theirs alone to make.
From their first meeting, in the drag bar he walks into, desperate for a drink, only to be mesmerised by her performance of ‘La Vie en Rose’ – the chemistry between them is undeniable. Watching him rapidly falling in love with her (she is more reticent at first) is the stuff of most women’s fantasies – who among us wouldn’t want to be looked at by a man the way he looks at her on that first magical evening that they end up spending together? Okay, so he’s clearly had a fair bit to drink, and his hair could do with a comb (let’s face it, after a couple of hours on stage he’s probably a bit whiffy, too) but he’s polite, and charming, and looking at her like she’s the most wondrous creature he’s ever laid eyes on, and you can almost see him thinking that finally, somebody has come along who can lift his soul in a way that it clearly hasn’t been lifted in far too long. She, meanwhile, seems to be finding his obvious attraction to her a little bit hard to believe – it’s clear, when he eventually drops her off at home in the morning after they’ve spent the whole night sitting around chatting, that she doesn’t really expect to hear from him again.
But of course he does intend to see her again – and it’s no time at all before he’s sending his driver, and a private plane, to fetch her and bring her to the latest city in which he is playing. And the true magic of the film is in the scene where he invites her onto the stage to sing one of her songs, ‘Shallow’ with him – the moment that first launches her into the spotlight. Gaga, in this scene, is terrific – from her initial wide-eyed refusal, standing backstage as he announces to the audience that he’d like her to come out and sing with him, to the look in her eyes as he starts to sing the song that she wrote, to her eventual decision to walk onto the stage and join him, the panic and disbelief at what is happening is written all over her face. But as with every scene in which she sings, the moment she opens her mouth to join in with the song, the music takes over – and while she continues to look fairly wide-eyed and disbelieving throughout, eventually she gives in and belts out the chorus, as he grins and looks at the crowd as if to say, “See? Isn’t she amazing?” – and it is clear the crowd agrees. It is in every way a pivotal moment – the moment at which the world becomes aware of who she is, the moment she truly gives in to her feelings and the event that sets in motion everything else that follows.
I won’t give any more spoilers – it’s a terrific film, with absolutely outstanding performances from both Gaga and Cooper, thoroughly recommended. Just take some earplugs for that opening scene.