Movie Review: A Star is Born
Picture Credit to Warner Bros. Entertainment
Even if you haven’t seen “A Star is Born,” you have likely heard Lady Gaga’s bittersweet cry “I’m off the deep end, watch as I dive in” as she belts out the feature song Shallow. The movie is the third remake of the 1937 classic. Each version has been adapted to its time, but the essence of the story has stayed the same: an extremely famous and damaged man, who abuses drugs and alcohol and goes into a downward spiral, falls for a woman who has the talent to succeed in the music industry but lacks the confidence. While his career is crashing down, hers is just beginning.
The casting of the movie is extremely strategic; Lady Gaga takes on the role of Ally, and while the real Gaga is known for her upbeat music and crazy, costume-esque outfits, in the movie she is unmasked, both literally and figuratively, and her raw talent is moving. Seeing her in normal everyday clothes and without heavy makeup is refreshing, and she is a more powerful character because of it. In addition to making his directorial debut, Bradley Cooper takes on the male lead, Jackson Maine, and leaves audiences wondering if there is anything he can’t do. Widely known for his acting, Cooper shocked audiences with his incredibly soulful voice. He plays a complicated, self-destructive man who hides the trauma of his past through his immense charm.
The movie is something of a “love conquers all” story. Ally and Jackson, the two protagonists, come from different worlds; his is one of screaming fans and bottles of whiskey in the backs of limos, and hers is one of working a crappy job and living with her father. They both have talent, but while Jackson embodies the ‘popstar image,’ and is embraced by fans Ally’s is inhibited by her looks, which have been repeatedly critiqued and rejected.
They meet when Jackson stumbles upon a drag bar at which Ally is performing, and he pursues her backstage. He discovers that she is a songwriter and encourages her to sing her own songs and use her voice to really be heard. Ally gains confidence from his attention and praise, and eventually faces her fears and performs on stage with Jackson. Not surprisingly, the crowd erupts and she is soon signed to a record label. This is when Ally begins to give up her authenticity, changing her image from a quiet, piano-playing artist with an important message embedded in her music to a popstar with backup dancers, new red locks, and flashy outfits, not dissimilar to Lady Gaga herself. Meanwhile, Jackson becomes increasingly messy, snorting cocaine before shows and verbally abusing Ally during his drunken stupors. Their whirlwind romance is tainted by resentment, Jackson being unhappy with the ‘new Ally’, and Ally getting tired of making excuses and cleaning up after him.
The movie seems typical in nature, but through expressive songs and touching upon serious issues, it ends up transcending its many clichés. Through Ally’s character, the movie highlights the pressure put on women by the music industry and society to be conventionally beautiful, and the insecurities that this provokes on a personal level. There is no denying that Ally is a talented singer, but in a world that values appearance over ability, she has to work much harder to earn success than those who ‘look the part.’ Sadly, women all over the world still grapple with this issue and are forced to fight to be taken seriously in professional settings, which is why this movie has been remade multiple times and is still relevant. Through Jackson’s character, the movie touches on the seriousness of substance abuse, and how the desire to stop using is not always enough for someone to get sober.
The platitude “an emotional rollercoaster” perfectly describes this movie. A captivating love story, a heartbreaking ending, a glamorous lifestyle, and an iconic soundtrack; this movie has it all.