Directed by Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born follows country/rock superstar Jackson Maine as he meets and falls for a fledgling singer named Ally (Lady Gaga) – with the movie charting their rocky relationship and her astronomical rise to fame. First-time filmmaker Cooper does a fantastic job of immediately drawing the viewer into the proceedings, as A Star Is Born, though saddled with as familiar a narrative as one could possibly envision, boasts a seriously confident atmosphere that’s heightened by its proliferation of catchy tunes and compelling performances – with, in terms of the latter, both Cooper and Gaga delivering impressive work that only perpetuates the picture’s easygoing, entertaining atmosphere. (It doesn’t hurt, certainly, that there’s palpable chemistry between the two affable actors.) And although Cooper has peppered the picture’s midsection with a handful of admittedly electrifying sequences (eg Jackson brings Ally on stage during a packed concert to sing one of her own songs), A Star Is Born does suffer from a progressively padded-out feel that ultimately diminishes the impact of its almost aggressively emotional and manipulative final stretch. It’s nevertheless clear that A Star Is Born marks a better-than-expected debut for both Cooper the director and Lady Gaga the actress, which effectively cements the movie’s place as a mostly engaging (and unapologetically old-fashioned) musical drama.
*** out of ****