E “A Star Is Born” And “Peak Belief”

The two main themes of “A Star Is Born” are 1) how everybody has “issues,” but being in the ranks of “celebritydom” puts them under the glaring spotlight of fame for everyone to see and thereby has far profounder effects on your career (and your personal life) and its degree of success or failure; and 2) what elements/factors/dynamics are in play that form the “secret sauce” of the felicitous mix of both a) BEING a celebrity the public has chosen to idolize and b) being a truly gifted creative artist contributing massive value for the public’s appreciation?  (This latter message is superbly delivered by, of all people, Andrew Dice Clay, in a supporting performance that, if you have no idea it is the comedian whose record for selling out Madison Square Garden two consecutive nights for a stand-up routine excoriated by every feminist in the land remains unchallenged, will hit you like a bulldozer when you learn the actor doing this role is that same politically incorrect prodigy of the 1980s, hilariously proclaiming “Everybody said I was just like Sinatra.”)  It is at that moment you begin to realize that the creators of this film have very insightful notions about the mercurial peculiarities of fame and its very complex workings.

Brad Cooper does an amazing job portraying such a famous man—himself in the grip of personal demons he is caving into more than trying to outsmart, defeat or at least make peace with (even though he seems to be going through some motions of attempted reform)—and it appears his mission is almost something along the lines of accepting “I am a total fuckup and so I am going to find somebody who has the strength and gifts to take my place in the world so that I can give up trying to deal with all this and instead find peace in death, having passed the torch to someone who can handle the burden I can’t, and whom I trust as my proxy.”  Lady Gaga portrays the woman he has targeted for this (and, by the way, has fallen hopelessly in love with, and vice-versa), and she does a magnificent job interpreting a role who is at once seemingly world-wise but who in the end has no idea the extent of what she has gotten herself into and how it will overpower her ability to control her own life.  And yet she pulls it off and looks good doing it, without once looking the other way when reality is in full view.

I did not expect this to be a particularly impressive film when I sat down to watch it the other day, but it was the masterful performances of Cooper (including his direction) and Gaga that completely changed my mind.  This is at the least a very good film and I am tempted to wager that in time it may be regarded as a great or near-great film.

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