Gaga Shines in ‘Nova Alum Bradley Cooper’s Directorial Debut


gaga and cooper

Cassie McHugh Co-Editor-In-Chief

A year ago, amidst a bout of bronchitis, I dragged myself out of bed and down to the Wells Fargo Center to see Lady Gaga. While clearly not the best choice I’ve ever made as far as personal health and well-being go, I don’t have a single regret about that night. She was transcendent, displaying vocal and artistic talent that rank at the top of not only the artists of today, but of the past several decades.

The same rings true in her latest performance, not on stage in an arena this time, but as the co-star of Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, “A Star is Born.” Cooper previewed the film, which is earning rave reviews and Oscar buzz on the film festival circuit, in Philadelphia last week. 

Gaga transforms so completely into her character that it’s easy to forget who she is as you watch the film. Her vocals, which appear to be live at most points, are the only reminder that she is a Grammy Award winning superstar. Her performance feels raw and genuine in a way that you wouldn’t expect from the artist who once infamously wore a meat dress to the MTV Video Music Awards.  

Gaga’s star performance does not obscure Cooper’s. The film marks his directorial debut and his performance in it as an actor is a good one. He began work on the movie more than three years ago and by all accounts put an incredible amount of work into it, learning how to play guitar and studying hours of interviews to develop his character’s accent. He plays his drunken, wayward rockstar of a character with conviction, and while I am far from a knowledgeable film critic, I found the imagery he used throughout the film as a director to be quite stunning. 

Off screen, Cooper is just as much of a funny and charming boy-next-door turned massive movie star as you would imagine. Following the screening, he answered questions from Philadelphia news anchor Ukee Washington and audience members, speaking with grace, humor and humility. He said when making the film he dreamt of this night—bringing the first film he directed to his hometown. 

It’s clear that while the film follows a narrative made for the movies—girl meets rockstar, they fall in love and he whisks her away to become a star in her own right—Cooper wants it to be deeper than just a tale of fame and fortune. 

“I didn’t want you to watch characters who don’t reflect who you are,” he said. “I used these ones because they’re cinematic, but it could have been about any couple.”

He also spoke of wanting to make a film that addressed issues that run deeper than Hollywood, including alcoholism and family tragedy. “There’s no reason to direct something if you don’t have something to say,” Cooper said.    

The result is a movie that made the audience — which I was apart of — both laugh out loud and openly cry. There’s been no shortage of press coverage about the film, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably go into it with high expectations. It will be funnier than you expect and sadder too. But if you expect it’ll be good, you’re already right.