The fourth version of A Star is Born was in development hell for a long time, back in 2011 Clint Eastwood was attached to direct and Beyoncé set to star. It’s hard to imagine that we could be discussing Beyoncé as a potential ‘Best Actress’ winner, and maybe in some alternate reality Eastwood’s version of A Star is Born swept the Oscars. Still, its pointless discussing ‘what ifs’ because in reality Bradley Cooper’s A Star is Born came to be. It is a film that is close to Hollywood perfection. It’s a good film, which has its little faults here and there. As directional debuts go, this is one of the strongest to come out in 2018.
Cooper understands film and the Hollywood machine in all of its ‘glory’. His decision to cast an actual singer a performer in the form of Lady Gaga was a wise one; when we consider the challenge that lay ahead for whoever to take on the role of Ally. Lady Gaga is bold, daring and exceptional as performer on stage. She is someone who understands that pop music can be art, and she is often experimental with her surreal artistic music videos. The character of Ally is an ordinary waitress, who is the complete opposite to the version of Lady Gaga that we see in her music videos such as ‘Bad Romance’.
When we are first introduced to Ally she seems so normal. Here is Gaga dressed in a white shirt, and black trousers with Gaga’s usual platinum blonde hair dyed brown and tied up in a messy bun. Her face is completely make-up free, a stark contrast to how we usually see Lady Gaga in the media. Seeing Gaga without make-up is a shock to the senses in a way.
The infamous story of Cooper apparently wiping away Gaga’s make-up during her audition sparked debate on the internet. According to Gaga, going make-up free helped her inhabit the role. “It put me right in the place I needed to be, because when my character talks about how ugly she feels — that was real. I’m so insecure. I like to preach, but I don’t always practice what I preach.”
Of course, make-up free or not, this is most definitely Lady Gaga. As Ally walks out to take out the trash singing ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ the hairs on the back of our neck stand up. This is really Lady Gaga, and as character introductions go, this is one that the viewer will remember for a long time. Gaga’s performance has recieved a lot of critical praise, with the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw calling her ”sensationally good….she is the one who commands your attention.”
Gaga’s Ally is a vulnerable creature who we immediately emphasise with, but we can see this hidden determination and courage that lies within her. Gaga manages to bring this character to life, and presents us with an individual who we can relate to. It is the scenes where Ally is off the stage and isn’t performing where we see Gaga’s real talent for acting.
The tender scene between her and Jackson in a parking lot as he tends to her hand (wrapping a bag of frozen peas on it), shows Gaga’s natural acting ability. We forget that these two people we are watching on-screen are actors, this feels like a scene that we have been given special access to and that we are witnessing without Jackson and Ally aware. It is the simple, small facial expressions and reactions that Gaga gives that immerse the viewer into this world. Gaga doesn’t act over-the-top or in a dramatic fashion, but seems genuine and authentic.
In order to get into the role of Ally, Gaga drew from past experiences; as she detailed in an interview with Elle magazine. “For me, in music and acting, I’m always pulling from my past experiences, family dynamics, relationships, pain, happiness, joy,” Gaga said. “The roller coaster ride of my life — how that has kind of created this beautiful disco ball that’s somehow refracted and fractured.”
This is perhaps why Gaga’s performance is so strong, she has lived the life of Ally. Today, we are all aware of who Lady Gaga is, but her journey to stardom hasn’t necessarily been an easy one. Before she broke through with her album The Fame, Gaga had been dropped by her label, performed at neo-burlesque shows, and had been writing songs for other female pop-stars.
Gaga’s life has had its ups and downs, and she has battled many personal demons. Perhaps the reason she manages to connect with the character of Ally so well, is that she sees so much of who she is as a person representing in Ally.
Lady Gaga is up against some tough competition at the Oscars. Glenn Close seems to be the favourite to win Best Actress, and Close does give a great performance, but there’s something about Gaga that you just can’t shake off. Of course, many singers have tried to make the transfer from music to acting and not all of them have been successful.
Still, Lady Gaga is in win a chance to walk away with the Best Actress Oscar. Remember when another eccentric singer turned actress called Cher, walked away with the Oscar in 1988? Well, she was also up against Glenn Close. So maybe, history will repeat itself?