When sat in the cinema waiting for Christopher Robin to begin a few weeks back I saw a trailer, the soundtrack sounded good and it mentioned Bradley Cooper playing a Country singer, then Lady Gaga’s voice kicks in and the trailer alone had me muttering “wow” under my breath. I had to see that film! Not long after I received the invite to the preview screening the night before release organised by Entertainment Focus Country and Warner Bros. Anybody who is anybody in the UK Country scene appeared to be there but don’t let that fool you, Country music is almost a sub-topic of this film and is certainly not the focal point so for those of you expecting something along the lines of Country Strong you may be left disappointed. However for the avid Country fan you may see a familiar face, that of Lukas Nelson who Co-wrote a number of songs on the soundtrack, he and his band “Promise of the Real” played Jack’s (Cooper’s character’s) backing band.
So let’s address the soundtrack first as, in Bradley Coopers own words, it became a character in itself. You can expect a mix of Pop, Rock and Country. Lady Gaga has many writing credits and she reunited with producer Mark Ronson and long time collaborators Paul Blair (DJ White Shadow). Country fans will be delighted to hear Jason Isabell has a song on the soundtrack and Nashville writers Lori McKenna (Humble and Kind), Hillary Lindsey (Jesus Take the Wheel) and Natalie Hemby (Pontoon) also have a couple of powerful tracks on there that they wrote with Lady Gaga. However it’s the song that’s become the film’s signature sound that got me, Shallow which has been released as a single and is climbing the digital songs chart. There is no question it is bound to scoop up some awards, potentially best original song at the Oscars, and in fact I think all aspects of the film may be receiving nods.
Despite it being a remake of a remake, though I can’t recall personally having seen the previous versions, the consensus from the room was that the storyline felt rejuvenated, it had a new lease of life with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga at the helm. The script took you on an emotional journey, in the beginning it had its fair share of comedy moments that had the room full of critics giggling. There was a stunned silence though as Lady Gaga delivered the first on screen performance of Shallow. And though the two stars put in an outstanding performance, I can’t overlook Sam Elliott’s performance in the role of Bobby.
Back to Bradley Cooper who has directed the film as well as playing the lead. I predict the film will clean up award shows but fear it will do a “La la land” in the sense that the female lead shall win lots and the male lead not so much, which in both cases does not do the male lead any justice. Cooper’s character is limited in a way but he pulls off the emotion well. Whilst Lady Gaga pulls off an incredible acting performance which is sure to earn her respect as a serious actress as well as an incredible singer and songwriter and I feel it won’t be the last time we see her in a leading role on the big screen.
It’s healthy balance of humour, heart break and thought-provoking drama coupled with an epic soundtrack make this THE film to watch this year.