A Star Is Born

Originally Posted on The Yale Herald - Medium via UWIRE

Like any good Tuesday night, I neglected my midterm prep to hop in a friend’s shockingly green Chevy Spark and drive on over to New Haven’s Bow Tie Criterion Cinema. We sat in the half-empty Screen #1 and emotionally prepared ourselves for the 10:10 p.m. showing of A Star Is Born. And yes, I left the theater in half sobs and with a spool of snot stretching between my nostril and collar bone.

I think by now everyone has heard at least one glowing recommendation. Preceding my viewing, three different friends on three different occasions flashed me a teary smile, and whispered, “Just wait till you see it,” as if they were all in on the same secret.

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

And there is a lot of beauty. There’s something about Lady Gaga’s stunning performance, something about how Gaga’s heart-wrenching ballads carry so much power that they seem to come from some deep, impossible place in her gut. There’s Lady Gaga’s orange wig. There’s Lady Gaga holding Bradley Cooper in a shower crying. There’s Lady Gaga. And she’s the best.

Apart from that, I felt a little tricked. The movie, now in its fourth incarnation, follows the love story between Jackson “Jack” Maine (Bradley Cooper) and Ally Campana (Lady Gaga) as they struggle through the pressures of fame, the hopes of music, and the tragedies of addiction. There are some strong moments in the film — moments that investigate what it means to really love someone who’s suffering, to watch someone self-destruct and have little to offer them but a lifetime of trying. The glossy rise of Ally, a newly discovered, up-and-coming pop-star, against the sweaty, desperate crumble of Jack hits with force and pain.

I wonder where or how to separate Jackson Maine’s behavior as a substance addict from his behavior as an unchecked, impulsive, self-deluded man-person. Early moments in the movie reminded me of the romance plots of ’90s teen hits: boy asks girl on date. She says no. 15 asks later, she says yes. The Yes delegitimizes all former Nos. Maybe it was something about how Jack’s driver follows Ally around all day until she decides to attend his boss’s concert; maybe it was the fact that Jack, post black-out, half gropes Ally’s boob as she sleeps before they engage in consensual sex; maybe it was how Jack humiliates her when she’s naked in a bathtub, or how their relationship is strangely based in his interest in her nose. Maybe it was the countless times Jack watches her as she sleeps.

There is such a thing as an anti-hero, and Bradley Cooper’s character is meant to be flawed — very flawed. But somehow I got the sense that as an audience member I was meant to sympathize with him in moments when, actually, I don’t. This is especially true when Gaga’s character, after some hesitation, drops most of her country music sensibility to transform into an international pop-star. For Jack, she is no longer telling “the truth” on stage, like he always does. Instead she is singing, “Why do you come around me with an ass like that?” And without any kind of investigation into what it means to be a woman in the music industry, or how these two characters may have different expectations and goals, the movie presents Ally as some kind of sell out. When she performs on SNL, as the “new” Ally, the camera instead turns to Jack, as he reaches for a beer backstage.

The movie, for the most part, is enjoyable. And no matter one’s mixed feelings about the toxicity of Jack and Ally’s relationship, it is hard to stay dry-eyed in the final 10 minutes. Lady Gaga singing “I’ll Never Love Again” in a Call Me By Your Name-esque final song moment focused on her heartbroken face truly destroyed me. The film is flawed, but go see it so Lady Gaga can win an EGOT.

A Star Is Born was originally published in The Yale Herald on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Read more here: https://yaleherald.com/a-star-is-born-c036581f06ed?source=rss----c10413cdfba9---4
Copyright 2018 The Yale Herald - Medium