The first word that comes to mind is overwrought. Closely followed by overlong. But what is most disappointing about yet another rendering of the ageless soapie about how triumph and tragedy in showbiz can so often go hand in hand is that there is nothing new or fresh about it. Bradley Cooper, in his debut as director, has done little more than an earnest re-hash, with George Cukor’s 1954 classic remaining the gold standard. As Jackson Maine, an alcoholic rock legend whose career, he is belatedly beginning to understand, has peaked, Cooper acts his butt off without making his character in any way sympathetic. And as for the language – the reprobates with whom I play golf are liberal in the extreme with their use of expletives, but even they would have blanched at a script laden with fucking. Lady Gaga is Ally, the aspiring singer/composer that Jack comes across when, desperate for a drink, he calls into a gay bar. In cabaret, Ally does a superb version of La Vie en Rose, and quite frankly, it is the movie’s highest musical moment (although the piquant Maybe It’s Time, performed by Cooper, lingers in the memory). Jack is so impressed by Ally’s talent that he gets her to join him on stage at his next stadium gig and from then on it is a case of her career going gangbusters while his stagnates. More galling for Jack is the fact that Ally allows herself to come under the sway of a manager who turns her act into something resembling Madonna’s high camp, which to Jack is a sellout of the artist he has loved, married, and nurtured. Over-fond of the big close-up, Cooper mumbles most of his lines while Lady Gaga, following in the footsteps of Janet Gaynor, Judy Garland, and Barbara Streisand, proves that acting need not involve many facial expressions. Her closing performance is meant to leave not a dry eye in the house, but I’d had enough and was just glad to get out of there.
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