I went to see "A Star Is Born" the day it hit theaters. Having seen the commercials everywhere on Facebook, youtube, and during every commercial break on tv, I decided I needed to see it. Prior to seeing the movie, I had been unaware that it was a remake but I don't think that knowing would've made much of a difference because this movie is definitely a stand-alone. Despite following three earlier versions of the same name, this film is very much relevant to the time period in which it is being released and it has something important to say about quite a few very real, very current topics.
First, let's talk about the cast. The brilliant, incredibly picked, world-shattering cast.
The hands down best decision made while making this movie was casting Lady Gaga as the lead female and Bradley Cooper as the lead male. Let's talk about why.
By casting Lady Gaga, this movie not only brought in an entirely different audience to theaters but also chose a person that has so much raw talent and intelligence that her addition could only make this film better. The Gaga in this movie is the Gaga that fans have watched speak on important topics like mental health and self-image and her raw emotion is poured over this film and smeared into each and every moment her character is on screen. Gaga is stripped down to her most natural self for the audience to see and her originality and remarkable personality is woven so seamlessly into the film that it's impossible to ignore her truly groundbreaking talent.
Bradley Cooper as the male lead is something I was skeptical about. He is an amazing actor, and a talented director but I was unsure about him being the male lead with someone who has previously been so polarity opposite in the public eye than he has. Man, I was wrong. Obviously, I was wrong, because he is the perfect counterpart to an acting Lady Gaga. Bradley Cooper's delivery of an addict struggling to stay relevant (and stay alive) is nothing short of perfect. His story is something that many people, those in the public eye and those who are not, struggle with every day. His portrayal of the male lead is messy and it's painful and it is so very real. And in case you didn't know, Bradley Cooper is a really great singer.
Also, this film has Sam Elliot in it as well, and I don't think you can ever go wrong with casting Sam Elliot in anything.
Now let's talk about the plot.
The film opens with an amazing set performed by Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper). Following the show, Jackson proceeds to continue the party by finishing off a fifth in the back seat of the car that is supposed to be taking him home. Instead of ending his night there, he forces his driver to pull over and he stumbles into a bar in search of more alcohol. It is in this bar that he first comes in contact with Ally Campana (Lady Gaga) who is singing "La Vie en Rose" beautifully in front of the crowded bar, in drag. Ally ascends from the stage, traveling to the bar and gracefully laying on the counter, right in front of a dazed and entranced Jackson Maine. From there, Jackson invites her to join him for a drink and they end the night sitting in front of a grocery store, trading beautifully sung lyrics and quickly falling in love.
Jackson sends for Ally the next morning, insisting that she come to his show that night, only to be met with her decline due to work. Only after extreme persistence both from Jackson's driver and from her Sinatra loving father does she agree to travel to his show. After her arrival, Jackson invites Ally on stage to perform the song she'd sung so passionately in the grocery store parking lot the night before. This first performance with Jackson and Ally together is nothing short of incredible and leads to Ally going viral after a fan uploads their performance to Youtube.
Jackson invited Ally to come on tour with him and the two fall deeply and madly in love. Jackson's alcoholism poses only slight problems, each time being swept partially under the rug in order to continue on their journey. The two travel the country performing together in front of thousands of people, and creating the most wonderful on stage and off stage connection.
Only when Ally is approached by a music producer do the real issues become apparent. Ally goes solo, delving deeply into the complex world of pop, but the shadow of Jackson's alcoholism and drug addiction begins to creep further and further into her spotlight at every turn. Jackson's addictions can no longer be ignored, they progress faster as he attempts to deal with Ally's superstardom. He turns to prescription drugs as his urgings for Ally to keep sight of who she is go ignored. As Jackson spirals Ally desperately grasps at their tattering relationship, wanting nothing more than his approval and support as she ascends to fame.
What is so great about it?
This movie has something important to say about self-image, about mental health, about addiction, about love, and about life.
Gaga's character Ally starts the conversation about self-image very early in the film. When questioned by Jackson about why she hadn't been discovered sooner, hadn't done something more with her talent before, she responds that she has but has constantly been told that she didn't have the look to be famous. She explains that her nose is too big to be the nose of a famous singer and reduces herself to nothing but a songwriter. Ally is only comfortable with performing if it is behind a mask as she'd done in the drag bar that first night because of these comments. Bradley's character begins to try and show Ally that she can be seen, she can be powerful and talented and heard just as she is and soon, Ally loses the facade of the drag makeup and begins to be her natural, incredibly talented self. This natural state doesn't stay for long however as Ally's rise to stardom begins to change her hair, her makeup, and her wardrobe. Only after the tragedy at the end of the movie does Ally's neutral and original beauty return. This series of transformations begin to explain the importance of staying true to yourself and attempting to keep your identity even as things around you shift.
To those of us who have never seen any of the previous versions, this film seems to be marketed as a love story tainted by the struggle of addiction but if you're anything like me, you assume that that addiction is conquered. Unfortunately, that assumption is wrong, but because of this, the film begins to say something extremely important about addiction and mental health as it relates to real people in the real world.
Instead of shedding a glamorous and very romanticized light on these topics, as Hollywood often does, this film allows viewers to watch the slow and then very fast spiral of an addict as their condition worsens and their addictions progress. This film stresses the importance of acknowledging when there is a problem and trying to intervene before it becomes too late. It painfully shows what happens when mental health is ignored and left unchecked. Bradley Cooper's character has been introduced and subjected to alcoholism at an extremely young age. The state of his mental health had been ignored by his alcoholic father for years which lead to it being hidden from the world until Maine's adult life. When Maine hits rock bottom, when he is sent to rehab, he is thought to conquer his addictions and when he is released, he is tasked with piecing back together his broken relationship. It isn't until his love for Ally is questioned that his depression resurfaces and he is driven to doing the only thing he feels will ensure her success as an artist and her health as a human being.
This film may seem very fun in the beginning but as it progresses it takes on each of these issues, very pointedly explaining them throughout its duration.
But wait, there's more.
The soundtrack of this film is phenomenal. Each of the songs are original to this film, each crafted specifically for the musical brilliance of Lady Gaga and Bradly Cooper. From start to finish, songs are performed throughout without making the film seem too musical like. And Every. Single. One. Will make goosebumps rise all over your body. You feel it in your toes, the sounds saturate your body until you have no choice but to hear them and really listen to what they have to say. Even if you have no interest in seeing the actual movie, download the soundtrack. Gaga and Cooper are so incredibly talented, both together and apart, it would be a crime not to fully appreciate their brilliance here.
The ending of the film will rip your heart out and stomp on it. If you're anything like me you might cry for a solid twenty minutes after the credits roll. But somehow, you can't hate the entire film because of it because it's just that good.