Film Review by Roy Frumkes The fourth incarnation of the classic story gives the second one (WB, 1954) a real run for its money, and considering that the ‘54 Judy Garland version was in production for over half a year compared with a tight 42 days for Lady Gaga’s, that’s quite an accomplishment. The plot trajectory, about a show biz couple, one of whose career soars as the other plunges, is updated, but never jazzed up stylistically in ways that would date it. First time director and star Bradley Cooper treats the source material with respect, providing a solid foundation upon which to build two wonderful characterizations, and the actors deliver the goods.
I was most curious about Lady Gaga. I don’t know much about her and never cared for her moniker. But boy, is she fabulous up there. Visually she has the unremarkable features of an everywoman, but the camera adores her anyway. For two hours I never tired of waiting for her next imaginative expression. Cooper is terrific in much the same way, only less so, which is appropriate in terms of the narrative. The wildest affectation he adopts for his role is Sam Elliot’s voice. And Elliot is in the film playing his brother! And they reference it!! That’s an indicator of the level of warmth that permeates the film. You can feel that the two leads love each other - more is the pity as the plot takes its inevitable tragic downturn.
Comparing Gaga with Judy Garland or Barbra Streisand, if one must do such a thing, she comes out easily tied with the other two in terms of performance, and very close in her delivery of the songs. The songs aren’t as memorable, but that’s not to say that it isn’t a good score, and it’s great fun watching the two of them perform. In fact, their chemistry is so good, I wouldn’t be surprised if they did another film together – perhaps a Hepburn/Tracy vehicle in need of a re-imagining.
With all these wonderful STARS ARE BORN to enjoy over the past eighty years, I still regret one terrible missed opportunity: Streisand desperately wanted Elvis Presley for her co-star, but the Colonel, long past the point where he was making good decisions in his client’s behalf, nixed the deal, and so it was Kris Kristofferson who stepped up to the plate. No shame on Kris, but Barbra and Elvis might have been more of a phenomenon than a movie, an iconic moment in the shifting celluloid of motion picture history.