A Star Is Born Is The Movie You Need Right Now
It’s melodramatic and lush and corny as hell. Which is what makes it so good
I owe you all an apology. For weeks, nay, months now I’ve been flooding my social media feeds with A Star Is Born-adjacent content. Ever since I saw the trailer for the Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga film, a remake of the story of a rock star who falls in love with an ingénue, watching her fame ascend as his wanes, I have gone, quite frankly, mad.
I ran a daily countdown on Twitter for a month in the leadup to seeing the film. I turned my Instagram stories into a shameless paean to the soundtrack. (It’s gorgeous, by the way, and worth every cent of the $18.99 pricetag.) I have promoted that movie more than I have promoted things that I am actively involved in, like my podcast, or stories that I have written for this very website.
So, you know, I will apologise for that. I will apologise for getting in at the ground floor on A Star Is Born and refusing to shut up about it as the elevator projected us all, dizzying and ebullient, into the sky. I will apologise for the memes.
But what I won’t be doing is apologising for loving this movie. It’s melodramatic, and lush and corny as hell, so full of earnest, robust feeling it will make you blush – hey? What? – just taking another look at it. And if loving that, by which I mean to say, loving the way being passionate and excited and buoyed along by something looks onscreen, then, well, I never want to be right.
Now, let me see if I can tell you a thing or two about A Star is Born. I’ve only seen the movie three times already and it’s not even out in cinemas yet, and I’ve only watched the trailer about, oh, 48 times. But let me see what I can remember…
Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) is a fedora-wearing, greasy-haired, growling old pickled country singer, so drunk he’s practically vapour and so leathery you could stick a pricetag on him and sell him at Gucci for $3,500. Could a musician like him – less Adam Levine and more, well, Willie Nelson – actually sell out arena tours the way that A Star Is Born suggests that he could? Who cares! Jackson wears his filthy hair and his scraggly beard and his steel-capped boots so well it doesn’t really matter. When we meet him he’s trying to escape the crowds of fans at a drag bar, where one of the performers hands him a guitar and an entreaty to play something for her. “Doesn’t matter,” she smiles. “As long as you look at me while you do it.” (Lady, I hear you.)
Then there’s Ally (Lady Gaga). She’s 31, a cocktail waitress with the “voice of an angel” who never made it in the music industry because of the way she looks: Mousy hair, oversized features, big, Streisandian nose. “Your nose is beautiful,” Jackson drawls the night that they meet, his eyes riveted to that very feature. “I’ve been looking at it all night. I’ll be thinking about your nose for a long time… Can I touch your nose? Let me just touch it for a second.”
Now I’m going to apologise again, because here is where I lose the ability to string a full sentence together. This is what else I can tell you about the movie: Erotic nose touching. Motorbike riding. Pen and paper in the back of a tour bus. Duets onstage. Red neon light. Empty bottles. White crochet dress. Fluffy dog. Eyebrow tape. Spotlight. Microphone. Haaa aah aah aah aaaahaaaaahaaa haa aah aah aah aaaaaaah!
This is a romantic movie. And I don’t just mean that in the sense that it tells a love story, a blowsy, bolshy, diva-in-a-full-set-of-hair-and-nails of a love story at that. I mean that every second of this movie is suffused with such sensuality. The way that Jackson and Ally look at each other, particularly in the first thirty minutes of the movie, him as if he has unearthed buried treasure, her with the sense of cautious possibility of opening yourself up to someone – and something – new, carries in it so much energy that it powers the rest of the movie along. This is the look of love, and it drags you beside it, no more so than in the scene when Jackson tugs Ally by the hand onto the stage to perform with him.
Here is where this movie ascends, like a birthing star, into the astral plane. This is the moment when I lost my heart and soul to this film. It’s heart-poundingly good. Ally steps up to the microphone and belts out the song that she wrote in a parkling lot the night before while Jackson sat in the gutter, gazing at her with the breathless adoration of a stadium full of fans.
Would she really have known how to sing this song, complete with a dinky guitar arrangement and a brand new bridge she’s never heard before, in that moment in real life? Would he have known that she was going to launch herself into the ‘Haa aah aah aah aaaahs’? Who cares? Seriously, who cares?
This movie is the stuff of dreams, a fantasy in which a global superstar plucks you from obscurity and touches your big nose and takes you with him on his private plane on the trip of a lifetime. Later, in the second half of the movie, the bill arrives for all that dream-making, and Jackson and Ally find themselves unable to pay.
A Star is Born doesn’t apologise for that, as much as it doesn’t apologise for all of the rich, cinematic swooniness of its central romantic ache. It’s a movie that wants to make you laugh and cry and breathe in, sharply, and fizz around in your seat. It’s a movie that wants you to break it open, dive in, and swim around inside it. It’s a movie that wants to move you.
Can I tell you a secret? It definitely moved me. Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone. But I’m terrible at keeping secrets. (That’s a line from A Star Is Born, guys! I mean, seriously!) And I won’t apologise for that, either.
A Star Is Born is in cinemas now.
Photography A Star Is Born courtesy of Warner Bros