Director: Bradley Cooper
I can’t believe that a significant proportion of our membership has not been or thought about going to see this blockbuster, even if prodded to by others. Family Moles saw it at the new Hummingbird cinema in the Custard Factory on Sat night, and a great 2.5 hours entertainment was had by all. So, be prepared to put your scene-based rockistry away for once and bow down before the altar of Big Entertainment. Everything is Big in this amped-up version of the evergreen showbiz tale of woe.
Gaga is immense, literally so, as the camera cannot get enough of her otherworldly robostar persona which fills the screen in close-up countless times. Her voice is gigantic, whether turning everything up to 11 for La Vie En Rose at the start, or giving it the full tragic diva Big Ballad at the end. This will sound so much better through the cinema sound system than our Samsung at home. There’s even a meta-moment when the face we’ve been staring into for a good hour and a half appears on a billboard the size of a football pitch: now everyone knows what we know, she’s a star.
Bradley Cooper’s voice is deeper than the Mariana Trench. He’s pretty damn convincing as the kind of rock-good old boy-a bit country star we just don’t get over here, but which fill stadia over there – hang on, no his voice is only coming second to the Gravel King, Sam Elliott, whose voice emerges from the cinema floor.
All of the beats from the 50s and 70s editions are there: the chance discovery in a little joint (again here amplified with drag queens with huge wigs), the initial shyness and doubt giving way to steeliness in the spotlight; the drinking problem of the fading star only intensified by the gathering shadows; and the final disgrace. The Grammys awards ceremony will have you squirming in your seat.
Cooper and Gaga are both excellent, as is Elliott. The only false note comes from Rez Gavron (no me neither) whose accent and demeanour settle in the mid-Atlantic. He is both obvious and underpowered in the admittedly thankless role of the scheming manager who drives them apart to ensure Gaga’s rise to success.
If the Garland/Mason iteration riffed on Garland’s megastar wattage, and the heyday of the Hollywood musical; and the Kristoffferson/Streisand one brought this story into the rock era, this one explores much more than either the musical generation gap. Cooper’s jeans and guitars rock is displaced by Gaga’s twitchy electropop on film and in real life. The best scene in the film sees Cooper, already fading, turn up to a rehearsal in which Gaga and a troupe of dancers are working on a performance for a track. He’s lost, in every way. She starts out banging a tambourine and doing backing vocals in his concerts like a tuneful Linda, by this point she’s developing a career that Cooper’s character can have no part in, anymore than Kinkladze could fit into Pep’s swarm of scurrybots. The game has changed.
It’s immensely enjoyable, and there’s more than enough booze poured and white stuff chopped out to convince. Does it show it’s a lot easier to make a great rock film about fictional characters (Quadrophenia, Almost Famous) than a biopic, when compromises and approved stories are the name of the game.
Fun fact: Elvis apparently was first choice for the 70s remake in the Kristofferson part. What a film that would have been. I’m guessing the film insurers nixed that.
Might appeal to people who enjoyed:
Rock biogs, close-ups, Gaga.