At their core, the four versions of A Star Is Born — the 1937 original drama and three musical iterations — mine the same territory: An aspiring actress or singer falls under the spell professionally and romantically of an older actor or singer and her career rises meteorically as his precipitously falls.
However, the contours differ in each film, and in the latest version, Bradley Cooper, who plays world-weary singer-songwriter Jackson Maine, and Lady Gaga, as straight-shooting Ally, give us immensely sympathetic characters, whose considerable musical talents are overshadowed only by their vulnerabilities.
Likely to draw favorable comparisons to the most recent remake — 1976’s version starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson — A Star Is Born 4.0, which opens Oct. 5, is a thrilling and, ultimately, heartbreaking tale of music’s power to heal and the music business’s equally corrosive ability to destroy all but the strongest souls.
Cooper and Lady Gaga’s chemistry is off the charts. It’s a spark lit not only by their physical attraction, but by the crackling creative energy between their characters as songwriters and performers. After a ridiculously entertaining scene when Maine discovers Ally performing Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose” in a noisy drag bar, his awe when Ally sings her own song a cappella for him alone in an empty parking lot is the stuff of movie gold.