Bradley Cooper makes an assured directorial debut with this fourth mounting (fifth if you count the original inspiration, 1932's What Price Hollywood?) of the venerable tale of two talents falling in love as their careers head in opposite directions.
Taking its setting cues from the Barbra Streisand/Kris Kristofferson 1976 version, this remake takes place in the world of music. Trawling for booze one evening after performing to thousands of screaming fans, alcoholic rock star Jackson Maine (Cooper) enters a drag bar where he encounters aspiring singer/songwriter Ally (Lady Gaga) performing and is struck by her clear talent.
After an impromptu duo at his concert the next evening, Ally joins Jackson on tour and the pair write songs together as they fall in love. But just as Ally's dreams begin to materialise, Jackson's demons start getting the better of him.
The first half of A Star Is Born is propulsively emotional film-making of the highest order. The songs, the love story, the wish-fulfillment - it all works undeniably well and if there's a heart in your body you will be shedding buckets of tears.
The second half takes some more predictable turns, but the highs of the first half will ably carry you through. Crucially, the film never feels inauthentic and the songs remain both organically integrated and highly memorable. Rarely has a film's story benefited so much from its musical elements.
Cooper and Gaga are both fantastic in roles that ask a lot of both of them. And a brief, yet highly impactful, appearance from Kiwi singer Marlon Williams (playing himself) only adds to the film's many pleasures.
Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Dave Chappelle
M (Sex scenes, offensive language and drug use))
An old-fashioned romantic fantasy with enough grit to ensure authenticity.