Actually not much at all, in fact this film is quite a revelation.
“Jack” (Cooper) is a music star, he gets recognized wherever he goes, he tours hard and drinks harder, way harder.
One day, feeling real thirsty he drops into a drag bar by mistake and meets a struggling (albeit very female) waitress “Ally” (Gaga), who performs “La Vie En Rose” in a seductive cabaret style and Jack is hooked big time.
Ally writes songs but never performs them, she has been told she is not attractive and her nose is too big which Jack disputes, insisting she is beautiful.
Encouraging Ally to sing on the stage with him, we quite literally see a star born in front of our eyes, with what will/has become a classic scene and much covered song, “Shallow”.
This is classic Hollywood story, a star on the fade and one on the rise. This could have been a hackneyed star vehicle for Gaga, a vanity project for Cooper, an incoherent mess, but remarkably it’s none of those things.
Cooper who rather annoyingly seems talented at just about everything, leaving nothing for the rest of us, has learnt to sing and play the guitar. Not only directing in a very realistic vérité style but also acting with absolute conviction.
Lady Gaga here leaves behind her outlandish costumes and make up and is shorn of all artifice, apart from that voice which remains wholly impressive. There is no question this is an astounding achievement, the chemistry between the two leads is palpable and the concert footage (filmed during other “real” stars concerts) is foot tappingly real.
When Ally first gets up to sing the main song “Shallow” it will be a hard person indeed who does not have a smile on their face. Watch out for Anthony Ramos as “Ramon” Ally’s friend, continuing to act as Ally walks on stage, a throwaway perhaps but indicates the level of authenticity achieved.
The film slows a little and changes tone as it must, to depict the inevitable downfall but the closing scenes are handled well and with considerable restraint. This despite the ballyhoo when the film was first released, which now seems wholly unjustified.
Arguably one of the weaker roles is Rafi Gavron as Ally’s manager, some of those interactions seem unrealistic and acting somewhat wooden. Compare with Sam Elliott as Jack’s brother in the “reversing scene”, he manages to add gravitas and years of acting experience during just a few key moments.
Far better than we had a right to expect, marking Gaga as a real actress to watch and again indicating the limit of Cooper’s talents continues to expand.