Frank Farley, PhD
Temple University, Philadelphia
Mona Sarshar, PhD
Temple University, Philadelphia
Elisa K. Colchado, EdS
CORA Services, Philadelphia
A review of A Star is Born
Director: Bradley Cooper
A Star is Born is a remake (the 3rd one to date) of the 1937 original, and stars Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. It is a powerful, engaging romance-and-ruin movie that is very long (2 ¼ hours) but one doesn’t notice the time, which bespeaks the compelling acting, settings and script. It is essentially a musical romance in which rock star Jackson Maine discovers an unknown singing and song-writing talent Ally (Gaga), and gives her some air time at his concerts. Concertgoers love her. So does Maine, who falls fast! He pursues her, praises her song-writing, and her singing, and sweetly courts her. She reciprocates and a love story is born, with concert duets and more, which ends in marriage. But a darkness stalks the couple in Maine’s alcohol and drug abuse, highlighted dramatically at the Grammys where Ally is a three-category awardee, and Maine is a falling-down alcoholic at Ally’s feet onstage and on TV. At this point one might entertain a nagging question that perhaps Maine is feeling eclipsed by his protégé in the musical world they both inhabit, and his drinking/drug use may be exacerbated by that. His name is losing its worth, and his career appears in decline. Another view for his return to drinking may be a loss of faith in the wonders he originally saw in Ally who adjusted herself to the mainstream competitive music world, and to some extent pushed herself away from her uniquely creative and message-driven song-writing.
Rehab for Maine doesn’t seem to work well. Ally gets a big-time contract offer for her own concerts and tours and recordings which she accepts. A star is born. The holder of her contract is an aggressive guy who wants Maine out of the picture, and gets Ally on the road solo, telling Maine to leave her alone or he’ll cancel her contract. One view is that Maine, her mentor, lover, husband primarily wants everything good in life for Ally, being selfless in his support, his giving, and his love. But he realizes alcohol and drug problems have become toxic to their relationship and his conflict over not wanting her to pursue her solo concert tour and work with her nasty boss, might be one ingredient in the end game—his suicide.
It’s a jarring finale, with the imputation of ending one’s life in part for love, to get out of the way of success for one’s beloved! A low act for a high motive. This relationship as presented could surely have been worked out, remediated to a happier state, saved by intervention or therapy. But with approximately 45,000 suicides per year in contemporary America, a viewer can to some extent understand such self-destructive behavior in the present fictional depiction. Additionally, the importance of the time after rehab can be highlighted here and how a person can still be vulnerable. Providing a supportive environment from family and friends could be beneficial, but is nowhere depicted in the film.
The acting is superb by Gaga, Cooper, and all. Cooper’s singing was amazingly good; he also directed the film, as noted. Gaga was a stand-out, sensitive, a powerful engaging singer and actor. The amount of love put into this remake of a classic was evident and breath-taking.
The take-home story for us was the wonderful musical performances by Gaga and Cooper, the concert performances, the evolution of their love, and above all trying to discern the motive(s) for suicide and any lessons from that act that the public could take away.