The smartest thing Bradley Cooper has done with A Star Is Born, his directorial debut, is to know when to get out of the way. Star is Lady Gaga’s story and Cooper’s Jackson Maine- an alcoholic, pill popping depressed fading country superstar with residues of charm- is the sad backdrop to Ally’s rise. Maine must fade and die in order for Ally to fully live.
That was the point of the other three iterations of A Star Is Born. Cooper shows he knows that by several smart directing choices that forego dazzle for straight forward emphasis on plot, character and the tragedy of the relationship.
Maine’s tan may be a little over applied and his smile a tad winsome, but it is in keeping with his character. This is the only thing that is left when the hearing starts to dull, the voice breaks and fails, and the talent no longer flashes. Cooper has smartly bet that he can direct himself and Gaga to an Oscar rather than act his way to one.
Gaga’s performance and the film itself is heart breaking enough to keep it and her memorable for a few years on both the popular and Oscar psyche. Cooper is the real star behind A Star Is Born.