I started listening to the soundtrack in the hope it would remind me of watching the film. A Star is Born is instantly enjoyable, makes me almost squirm with happiness in its dreamy build up of the relationship between Jacks (Bradley Cooper) and Ally (Lady Gaga). And after this blossoming love had made me giggle and grin, I let out a big and melancholic sigh during the sadness of their decline that untangles the clenched stomach of almost-corny falling in love that is a delight to watch when done well.
As a brilliantly and efficiently constructed melodrama that is peppered with partial and full songs performed by the two leads, the film surges emotionally and provides an affective field that is the engulfing and thrilling sealing that many people desire to attain during their time in the cinema. By this I mean to infer, A Star is Born springs the joy that I reckon people imagine they want to positively “escape” to in the cinema. Though the idea of escapism as a rhetorical device is something I don’t agree with, I can see what it attempts to communicate about the transportation films can provide. During A Star is Born I am instantly ‘caught-up’ in the narrative and cinematic landscape, happy to be drawn in and manipulated by cinematic devices that hone the thrill of watching people fall in love.
The casting of Lady Gaga is, of course, a somewhat self-reflexive device, if only in the sense that she is playing a singer who rockets to stardom. Despite this knowing-ness, her presence and performance is in no way hokey, crass, or ironic. It works for many reasons, in part because of her off-screen identity and both on and off screen abilities. She is transformed on the screen, ironically perhaps because she is not in one of her usual aesthetically performative quasi-disguises. Her face is fresh and open with a powerful availability I have never witnessed on her before. Her voice too is rich and surging. Granted, I have not listened to Lady Gaga’s music other than singles as they play on the radio, so it struck me as a new sound coming from her when the songs did not feature the pop-music production I am accustomed to hearing underlie her voice.
Cooper’s voice is also transformed as Jacks into a deep and gravely one, sexy and smoked from (in the narrative) cigarettes and whiskey. It keeps low to the floor and etches his pain. His struggle and her talent are both immediately registered, and it does not matter at all that the film does not hide its clear narrative trajectory.