What do you have deep inside that you want to say? In Director Bradley Cooper’s “A Star Is Born” his fading rock star Jackson Maine holds in his arms Lady Gaga’s rising star Ally as they gaze at the billboard of her record album cover. Gravelly voiced Jack says, “Dig down into your soul… Say what you wanna say, because what you say is the stuff of angels.” Director Bradley Cooper’s feature debut poignantly asks what do you have to say to the world, so people want to listen.
“A Star Is Born” is uncompromising in discovering one’s voice in the world acknowledging the darker humanity of addiction and depression. Bradley and Lady Gaga, in her first starring movie role, are authentic and genuine: strength and frailty. Sam Elliot is eloquently powerful as Jack’s older Manager brother Bobby, who loves his self-destructive baby brother.
Not only did Bradley direct “A Star Is Born”, he wrote the screenplay with Eric Roth and Will Fetters. He learned to sing for a year and a half. He wrote songs for the movie with Lady Gaga. On The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Lady Gaga said that she was blown away by Bradley: “He sings from his gut.”
As country rock star Jackson Maine, he is so convincing singing, “Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die.” He pops painkillers going on stage. He downs a bottle of Jack Daniels in the limo ride from his concert. Bradley embodies Jack’s weary numbing suffering.
Looking to get a drink, Jack drops in a dive drag bar in Los Angeles. His eyes widen listening to Lady Gaga’s Ally singing a French song classic. Ally is special.
Over drinks Jack discovers Ally, who works as a restaurant server, is a songwriter. He asks her why she doesn’t sing her songs. Ally says that people like her songs, but not the way she looks.
Lady Gaga is “unplugged” in natural brown hair, sans glam makeup. Gaga inhabits Ally’s insecurities like a glove. Yet like Jack, we see her greater within. Jack tells her, “If there’s one reason we’re supposed to be here is to say something so people wanna hear it…” That’s the beauty of “A Star Is Born”: It says something we want to hear.
Predictably, yet naturally Jack and Ally fall in love in their star-crossed romance. Ally’s star ascends when she sings her song “Shallows” with Jack in concert. Sadly, Jack’s star tragically descends in drug and alcohol addiction. Ally and Jack are truly in love: They see the greater within each other. However, love alone may not save Jack from his addictions.
Bradley and Gaga are fearless compassion in the kind of poignant sadness that can heal. Director Cooper trusts his actor’s humanity in stark authentic conversation. Ally cries to Jack, “You hurt me!” Jack breaks down to Ally, “I’m so sorry…” When Jack confesses to Bobby about “stealing his voice” I cried.
Lady Gaga is the star. She is so fierce in Ally’s vulnerability. Her singing amazes. And you never catch her “acting”; she is just being. She and Bradley don’t romanticize the suffering of loving a drug addict; loving someone suffering from depression. You can only do your best. Responsibility is often a two-way street. That’s the eloquent message of “A Star Is Born”.
Listening to Gaga’s closing song moved me. Being in love is perhaps most important in life. Yet, we can’t know what goes on inside another, even ones we love. “A Star Is Born” reminds us that we must also have forgiveness in our hearts. I truly loved “A Star Is Born”.
Would you like to help us shatter stereotypes about men? Receive stories from The Good Men Project, delivered to your inbox daily or weekly.