Lady Gaga sings and shines in the latest 'Star Is Born'

“A Star Is Born” again. Not evangelically, just generationally, since the 1930s.

The current razzle-dazzle iteration features Stefani Germanotta, a Lady better known as Gaga. She plays aspiring singer Ally, whose dreams of stardom are fading until rock star Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) finds and falls in love with her, coaxing her into his own spotlight.

It opens with the roar of a Woodstockian crowd as he takes a long draught of whiskey before stepping onstage. With some fancy guitar licks, he croons his signature hit for the adoring fans in a voice that’s a pleasing cross between Jim Morrison’s and Jackson Browne’s.

Lady G is more than pleased when he shows up later at the dive where she’s doing an X-rated version of “La Vie en Rose” — on her back on the bar — looking much like one of her drag queen pals who perform there. Jack is enthralled. “I coulda been a big star if it wasn’t for my nose,” she blathers after the song. He’s too sweet for words. When she hurts her hand in a silly fight, he buys frozen peas and gauze to put on it. They have a soul-searching exchange in a supermarket parking lot, and then. ...


'A Star Is Born'






  • Starring: Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Sam Elliott.
  • Rating: R for language throughout, sexuality, nudity and substance abuse.

The next night, he virtually kidnaps and drags her onstage for an impromptu duet, her terrific natural contralto shifting at will from low to high range (and gear), generating goosebumps all around. It’s the sudden smash-hit fantasy come true. But afterward, when she goes back to his hotel lookin’ for lovin’, he makes a few drunken passes — and passes out.

You get the arc here and so, pretty soon, does Ally: Jack has tinnitus as well as psychological and alcohol issues. As her career takes off, his is tanking.

And as his substance abuse increases, so does her sequin quotient. This is unfortunate, because she looks great sans makeup (facial warts and all) as a natural brunette. With the wild red hair, well … consider her roots.

Lady G. learned to play piano at 4 and attended Convent of the Sacred Heart school from age 11 (with Paris Hilton — what a place!), where she was bullied for her plumpish appearance, imperfect front teeth and aforementioned big nose, et al. eccentricities. Like Ally, she was go-go and belly-dancing in bars at 15, in increasingly bizarre outfits, wigs and high heels — influenced by Madonna, David Bowie, Britney Spears and Freddie Mercury. Her stage name derives from the Queen song “Radio Ga Ga.”

Warner execs originally wanted Beyonce but were impressed by the chemistry between Cooper and Lady G. in a screen test. Once cast, she convinced him they should sing live (to avoid bad lip-syncing), and he should get vocal training and learn to play guitar from Lukas Nelson, son of Willie.



Mr. Cooper, with his piercing blue eyes and charming ways, began on “Sex and the City” and broke out in the movies with “The Hangover” (2009). Fascinating $$ factoids: He got $600,000 for the first “Hangover,” $5 million for “Hangover II” (2011) and $15 million for “Hangover III” (2013). Why?

Because he got three consecutive Oscar nominations, two for the high-octane David O. Russell films “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012) and “American Hustle” (2013), and a third for his portrayal of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle in Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” (2014). He also earned a 2014 Tony nod for the revival of “Elephant Man.” Safe to say, this guy is an accomplished actor as well as a burgeoning singer.

The jury’s still out on how burgeoning he is as a director-writer. His debut here features nifty backstage sequences, naturalistic (semi-improvised) dialogue, and attention to details (that Carole King album nailed to Ally’s bedroom wall). But the editing seems literally clipped, and he’s self-indulgent with long, slooow takes on himself and his Lady. Supporting characters such as his mentor Sam Elliott, Ally’s best bud Anthony Ramos, and manager Rafi Gavron need not apply for attention. And the horrendous Grammy Awards scene where Jack humiliates himself is way over-the-top.

This is the fourth “Star Is Born” (fifth, counting “What Price Hollywood?” in 1932). It’s a hoary chestnut. Dorothy Parker co-wrote the 1937 version starring Janet Gaynor and Frederick March. George Cukor directed Judy Garland and James Mason as her Man That Got Away in 1954. Barbra Streisand wrote her own beautiful “Evergreen” ballad for the 1976 version with Kris Kristofferson.

One truly great song here is “I’ll Always Remember Us This Way,” in which our star sings and plays piano gorgeously. The lush finale (“Wish I’d Said Goodbye”) with a 50-piece orchestra — not so much.

Gaga is good, but no Garland. Cooper is good, but no Cukor. Their jointly written songs are good, but not Arlen-Gershwin good. And comparisons are odious — especially if you’re too young to have seen the version’s they’re being compared to.

My impeccable taste and preferences aside, you should check it out for yourself.

Post-Gazette film critic emeritus Barry Paris:

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