A while back, Mrs Izzard and I wandered down to the cinema to see Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, A Star Is Born. The film is remake of the 1976 film of the same name with Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson which was itself a remake of a 1954 version with Judy Garland and James Mason.
But this version stars Cooper as a famous yet troubled country music singer, Jackson Maine. He meets Lady Gaga’s Ally as she struggled to get her music career off the ground and the two quickly hit it off. While the film does have a bit of a somewhat predictable storyline with a common narrative structure, that’s absolutely not a problem.
It’s all shot very nicely, the dialogue is honest and believable and lots of time is given to some well-blocked out musical performances. Cooper’s pacing as a director is a specific big plus for the movie but there were two main things that really drove the story for me. And one of those is the chemistry between Cooper and Gaga.
Having seen Lady Gaga’s acting turn in American Horror Story, I was initially wary when I saw the news that she was cast in A Star Is Born. But whether it was the way Cooper wore his director’s hat or his acting ability, I loved seeing the two of them on screen together. There was something very real about it. My favourite scenes in the film were the ones that featured only them – and their dog.
The second thing that really made the film for me was the soundtrack. And that shouldn’t be a shock. In a film about musicians which features lots of live performances, you’d expect the music to be great.
So great in fact that when I talk about A Star Is Born, we need to talk about the impact music can have on us.
If you stick the soundtrack on without having seen the film, I think you can get a good indication of the storyline. There are heavy country riffs, emotional acoustic chord progressions and some overly upbeat pop songs. Just from the tone of the songs, and the way the soundtrack finds its way from its beginning to its end, you can hear the character arcs evolve in the film and understand the journey that Jackson and Ally go on in the film.
Now I don’t want to throw any spoilers into the ring because I can see this film being one that will have a fairly significant second life on DVD. but I will say that there’s more than one song which is somewhat downbeat, ones that are indicative of something that happens to both Jackson and Ally.
And I didn’t realise what I really took away from the film until later on that night when I put the soundtrack on at home to listen to those songs again. We got to one of these downbeat songs and Mrs Izzard instantly welled-up with tears, being immediately reminded of how she felt watching the film.
Now don’t you think the way music has the ability to do this is absolutely incredible? The way some words and notes can instantly, almost viscerally, recall a feeling or emotion. And it’s not just because we heard that song only a few hours before – it happens all the time.
Listening to the song Jamie All Over by Mayday Parade gives me an instant feeling of freedom because it’s the first song I put on in my car the day I passed my driving test. Paul Simon’s Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes featuring Ladysmith Black Mambazo will always whip the breath out my chest as I think about listening to the cassette with my nan in her front room. Forever, Always by Judah and the Lion never fails to recreate the feeling I had when me and Mrs Izzard took the dance floor for our first dance.
The way music is used in A Star Is Born reminded me just how incredible music can be. Without a doubt I sometimes get caught up in listening to the latest songs or trying to find music that no-one else is listening to, that sometimes I forget about the songs that really make you feel something.
So next time you hear a song that transports you from wherever you are to another time, place or feeling, just take a few minutes to enjoy it. And just think – eight notes and a few words did that.