“A Star is Born,” the latest adaptation of a story that has been told in Hollywood for decades, is a deeply affecting film showcasing the darker side of life in the spotlight. The film, which opened on Oct. 5, marks the directorial debut of Bradley Cooper, who stars alongside Lady Gaga.
Cooper plays Jackson Maine, a successful country-rock musician who tries to hide his alcoholism and hearing loss from the public. After a concert which leaves him visibly drained, Jackson stops at a bar where he encounters struggling singer Ally, played by Gaga.
Jackson instantly recognizes Ally’s talent and encourages her to come on tour with him. As they travel and perform together, they bond over their love of music and begin to form a romantic relationship. Although they clearly love each other, Jackson’s drinking problem and declining career continuously drive a wedge between them.
As Ally’s own career flourishes, Jackson begins to fade into the background. Combined with a long list of past resentments, as well as the pressure placed on him as a famous musician, this drives him into a truly dark mental state.
Meanwhile, Ally must make a choice between continuing to pursue her dreams, and giving all of her support to the man she loves as he struggles with his inner demons.
For those who know Gaga only as a musician, her performance in “A Star is Born” is a revelation. Gaga gives Ally a sense of joy and optimism that shines through even in her darkest moments. The subtle changes in her voice and mannerisms depending on the person that she is interacting with are a testament to Gaga’s discipline and dedication to the role.
In addition, Gaga’s powerful vocals are on full display, leaving no doubt that Ally is destined to be a star. From a performance of “La Vie en Rose” in a drag bar, to choreographed numbers in front of huge audiences, she thrills everyone who watches her with her talent and her love for performing.
Also worth noting is her onscreen chemistry with Cooper, who is equally immersed in his role. The success of telling a story like “A Star is Born” depends on having lead actors who are able to form a genuine connection with each other, and Cooper and Gaga certainly deliver.
It is difficult to tell stories of troubled relationships such as Ally and Jackson’s without demonizing either party. The audience may wonder why Jackson continues to engage in behavior that he knows is harmful, or why Ally does not put her own wellbeing first and decide to leave him.
However, it is clear that they stay together because of a strong bond that persists in spite of the obstacles that they face. Along with the hurt and embarrassment that Jackson causes Ally due to his own problems, the film also showcases the depth of the love and admiration that they both have for each other. It allows them to be playful, loving and devoted to each other, and although their choices may be questionable, their love for each other is not.
The tragedy of “A Star is Born” stems from this unwavering love. Ally knows that she cannot fix Jackson’s problems, nor should she be expected to. Her devotion to him places her in the undesirable position of choosing between him and her career. As for Jackson, he is aware that his self-destructive tendencies are harmful to Ally, as well as others around him, but he does not know how to escape the cycle of pain and anger that he is trapped in.
As tragic as the story is, it is worth seeing for the beautiful, uplifting moments between its two stars. Gaga and Cooper handle the material expertly, bringing life to a story that will stay with audiences long after they leave the theater.
Veronica Apodaca is a culture writer for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @veeapodaca.