Roses appear to be a recurring theme in the latest remake of A Star is Born – right from the moment Bradley Cooper’s character, singer Jack, first lays eyes on Ally (played by Lady Gaga), lying on the bar of a drag club and singing Edith Piaf’s stirring La Vie en Rose.
It resulted in everyone being in awe of her, before Cooper’s directorial debut even took its first bow.
The film, which received a standing ovation in Venice, finally opened in Australian cinemas this week.
Forgive the Gaga pun, but we reckon the movie could blaze a meteoric trail to The Edge of [Oscars] Glory – though it’s not entirely flawless.
The swooning romance of the opening half is strongest, with a touch of Richard Linklater’s 1995 cult hit, Before Sunrise, as they head out on an all-night first date around Manhattan.
Taking in a boisterous cop bar, Ally is tentative and forthright in equal measure. Despite her obvious talent, she’s too insecure to stray beyond covers and sing her own songs to record bosses who she reckons are too cruel to look past her prominent nose.
No pushover, Ally comes out swinging when Jack’s bugged out by a pushy fan, necessitating a stopover in a floodlit grocery store to soothe her bruised hand with frozen peas.
Also appearing in Machete Kills, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, American Horror Story and as herself in Muppets Most Wanted, this is Gaga’s first major lead. And she’s a knockout.
With Ally initially unsure of this instantly smitten star whisking her into his 50 Shades of Grey world of cross-country touring, soon enough, Jack’s cajoling her into joining him on stage.
A Star is Born’s music is strongest in the first half too, with the country vibe really suiting Cooper’s surprisingly melodious and melancholic delivery, and Gaga’s power behind the piano never in doubt.
But as Jack’s spiralling addiction drags him down – just as she’s on the rise – coaxed by duplicitous record boss Rez (Rafi Gavron), oddly Ally’s increasingly pop hits have none of the pizazz of Gaga’s fantastic career. They fizzle like rejected B-sides.
Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson memorably moved the story into the music world after the acting focus of the 1937 original, starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, and the Judy Garland and James Mason remake (1954).
Interestingly, Streisand recently told The Cut she regretted giving away too much power behind the scenes.
“I wanted the character I played to be a liberated woman, and yet I stupidly gave away the title of producer and took a lesser one. I even cut certain scenes … so I would have less screen time.”
The trajectory of a doubting girl made famous by the love of a damaged man is beginning to feel a bit hoary in 2018, with female empowerment on the march.
Sure, Gaga – who just announced her engagement to music agent Christian Carino at Elle magazine’s Women in Hollywood Celebration – probably had her own doubts, but she fought hard for her achievements. This story gives the man too much agency.
Why can’t they both be stars? We’re pretty used to celebrities struggling with addiction, and isn’t it a bit iffy to suggest her career would be damaged by his alcoholism?
These niggles aren’t enough to derail the show, though, like Jack’s heinously cringeworthy embarrassment of Ally at the Grammys.
Gaga burns bright, with Cooper an able wingman to her megawatt glow.