Gaga amazes in “A Star is Born”

Hunter McKenzie, Culture Columnist

If you don’t want to spend a Friday night catching another dull superhero flick, the new “A Star is Born” is the kind of the movie — at least for the first 2/3  — that one needs to see when the brain and the heart need a reboot.

Here’s what happens when you do go catch “A Star is Born:” you’ll buy a ticket, you’ll go to a respectably packed theater and you’ll have a good time for roughly two hours.

But then you’ll leave that theater and go off to your next activity — whether that be the bar or the bed — and you’ll probably recall it fondly, consider it a nice little escape, a bubble from which you have already come out of, though it was nice while it lasted.

“A Star is Born” follows a veteran performer as he helps a budding singer-songwriter find fame despite his own battles with age and alcoholism.

A remake of a remake of a remake, the newest iteration finds movie star Bradley Cooper in the male protagonist role — where he’s just fine — but also the director’s chair for the first time.

Cooper’s performance is nice. It is at times drunkenly gleeful, easily adorable but also cruel. His gravelly voice, his greasy hair and his rugged masculine demeanor become more confused and desperate as it breaks down over the course of the film.

But it is his careful, self-conscious directing that makes the film work.

The titular role — the reason why you bought that ticket in the first place — is what makes the film not just work, but a delight. Lady Gaga not only fills the role appropriately — possibly necessarily — but also exceptionally.

A mega star herself, Gaga turns in a performance that is full of fervor and excited energy, the kind of shaky desire that comes from a debut role, the desire to please the camera, the script and the role.

A makeup-less Gaga navigates a kitchen in the restaurant she works at, arguing about who’s turn it is to take out the garbage. She holds back hurt in one of the most physical and captivating performances. It is total famous-girl-playing-normal-girl heaven.

Even when she has become the star, her face plastered up on the billboard in the middle of Los Angeles, she is not the Lady Gaga we know.

Gaga channels a pop star vibe slightly different than the unexpecting art-glam rock she portrays in her own music career. The auburn hair, so neon and upsetting, and the music, so trashy and dancy: “Why’d you come around me with an ass like that?”

This is also a deeply conflicted movie. It’s not quite sure which to be: a smart film about how the entertainment industry and capitalism commodify art, or an unsatisfying, arguably dangerous film about addiction and depression.

It works better when it is a sweet, Hollywood melodrama in perfect little throwback fashion. As a result of this tricky balance, Cooper succeeds in straddling the line between both film concepts.

It is rousing, it’s the world’s biggest movie star trying to have his music moment and arguably succeeding. It is the world’s biggest music star having her movie moment and unquestionably succeeding.