A Star Is Reborn

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A Star Is Reborn

Evan Hecht, Editor-in-Chief

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When the film A Star is Born was first announced, I was beyond excited. I’m a big fan of Lady Gaga and I knew she had the talents to carry a singing-based film. I had never heard of the previous iterations of A Star is Born until my sister and I mentioned the film to my grandparents— they regarded the version starring Streisand as one of the best films of their generation. After rewatching it, they viewed it as a vehicle meant to let Streisand sing, rather than a qualitative story. After hearing that, I was definitely a little worried to see what director Bradley Cooper was going to do with this new version of the film. Before continuing this article, I’d like to warn you that yes, there will be quite a few spoilers.

A lot of pressure was placed on Cooper for the film. A Star is Born is an extremely respected film, regardless of what iteration is being discussed. My grandparents loved seeing Garland and Streisand play stars on the rise, so their attitude definitely made me excited to see the film with a singer I enjoy so much. I walked into Tenafly Bowtie Cinemas with high expectations and I left teary-eyed with my expectations met to their wildest potential.

Cooper’s A Star is Born follows the relationship between rock star Jackson Maine and starving artist/star on the rise Ally. After another successful show, Jackson is in the backseat of his driver’s car, where he seems to have run out of alcohol. He has his driver pull over to a local New York City dive bar so Jackson can fulfill his insatiable need for booze. Upon entering the bar, he quickly learns he has stumbled into a drag bar. We see RuPaul’s Drag Race alumni Shangela and Willam introduce the next performer to the stage, Ally. Ally delivers an enthralling performance of Édith Piaf’s “La Vie En Rose.” Ally’s friend Ramon (Anthony Ramos) takes Jackson backstage to meet Ally. From then on, Jackson and Ally embark on a whirlwind romance. 

After a wild night filled with bar fights, autographed drag paraphernalia, impromptu parking lot ballads, and iced peas, Jackson drops Ally off at home. Little to Ally’s surprise, Jackson is insistent on pursuing her, having her quit her job and flown out to his next gig on a private plane. When she arrives at his gig, Ally is dragged onstage to perform the aforementioned parking lot ballad, named “Shallow.” Ally delivers a passionate performance and ends up going viral, helping her to establish her own level of fame.

Something I appreciated about A Star is Born is how it deals with a lot of touchy issues like drug addiction, alcoholism, and mental health. Throughout the film, we see Jackson’s addiction progressively get worse as Ally gets more famous. It is this struggle, involving the shift of power dynamics, in which Jackson faces a conflict that shakes his world. He’s used to being the star and can’t deal with the fact he’s no longer the main attraction. This issue climaxes when Ally wins the Grammy for Best New Artist and Jackson stumbles onto the stage in a state of drunkenness. Because of his inability to remain sober, he ruins a moment which was meant to be a milestone in her career. Jackson copes with the intense inadequacy he feels because of Ally’s success by increasingly turning to alcohol.

Another aspect I particularly enjoyed about this movie was Ally’s character progression. We see her as this very genuine figure at the beginning of the movie, truly being who she wants to be. Her very first performance is chock-full of creative liberty. The original songs of hers that we hear in the movie early on have much more depth than the ones found later in the movie. She goes from writing raw songs like “Shallow” and “Look What I Found” to songs like one in which the chorus is simply “Why did you do that, do that, do that, do that, do that to me?” This shift particularly stands out because you witness Ally being forced to change to appeal to the masses, given the nature of the pop industry. Along with the shift to generic pop songs, Ally is also forced to change her whole image. For example, her manager makes her dye her hair, and when he suggests a color, he advises her to go with something common and plain like blonde. She eventually does give in to the requests of dying her hair, but she goes with a fiery red color. Although the fame does change her, she still knows who she is through it all, and that is one of the most valuable takeaways of the film.

I think Cooper did a phenomenal job in capturing the ideals of A Star is Born without making it just a vehicle for Lady Gaga to show off her singing talents. I loved the film and I recommend that everyone sees it.