TIFF Review: ‘A Star is Born’ is Thoroughly Enjoyable As Long As It Lasts

Remakes are tricky business. Sometimes, I even question the motive behind remaking an iconic film. In most cases, remakes bring nothing new to the table and end up just becoming a shadow of the originals. It’s a lose-lose situation. The only exception that can be made for a remake is if it is made with the intention of improving the original. Well, I am sure, all the filmmakers believe exactly that when they undertake a remake project. But how many succeed? In all honesty, hardly any.

‘A Star is Born’ was originally made in 1937. After that, two remakes were made – one in 1954 and another in 1976. Just imagine what a tall order Bradley Cooper had in front of him when he undertook to remake ‘A Star is Born’. His task was cut out: to top the previous three films that are already well regarded. Did he succeed? The short answer is: yes. The long answer is: it depends on who you ask. In my case, I am not a big fan of any of the three films in the first place. So, my expectations weren’t huge with Bradley’s version. Having said that, if you go by public reaction, critics are unanimous in their praise, several declaring it to be the best version of ‘A Star is Born’.

The story of ‘A Star is Born’ will sound familiar to you even if you haven’t seen any of the previous films. The film follows Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) who is an alcoholic rockstar. He attained stardom years ago, and the pressures of fame have isolated him. His much-older brother (Sam Elliott) manages his career, but Jackson likes to be in control (or lack thereof) of his life off the stage. One night Jackson wanders into a drag bar looking for a drink and finds an amateur performer with a shockingly beautiful voice. Ally (Lady Gaga) and Jackson connect instantly. He sees her potential and convinces her to sing with him on the stage. As Jackson and Ally grow closer, their singing careers go in opposite directions. Ally gets her own record deal, and soon she finds herself in the midst of fame and accolades. Meanwhile, Jackson, who is already neck deep in alcohol and drugs, swiftly falls into a deep dark place from where he may never be able to return.

It is easy to notice how hard Cooper has worked on the film. Not only he had acted and directed the film but also written several of the songs. He knows Lady Gaga’s strengths and allows her to flourish in song after song . The fact that Gaga is such a phenomenal singer helps the film soar to greater heights. Her acting is nothing to scoff at either. She firmly holds her own in emotionally-charged scenes. Cooper, on the other hand, gives a magnificently subtle performance. That’s one hell of an achievement considering he is playing an alcoholic rockstar. He could have easily written himself a number of breakdown and outburst scenes, but he resists that temptation and decides to portray Jackson as a laidback guy dealing with inner demons. It is easily his best performance till date.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the film, I don’t think I am going to remember it for a long time. It is an entertaining film, but it is hardly memorable. We have seen this story several times before and therefore, the film suffers from predictability. There are no surprises, no out-of-the-blue moments. It is great as long as it lasts. Once the curtains are down, you move on with your life humming one of the Lady Gaga’s songs.

Rating: 3.5/5