“A Star is Born” is Bradley Cooper’s first directorial debut and it is a film that delivers on all fronts. With intense and realistic performances from Cooper and Lady Gaga, as well as expert cinematography and a stellar original soundtrack, it’s no wonder this movie was so popular at both the Oscars and on the Billboard Charts.
It’s these elements and more that elevate “A Star is Born” over your average, run-of-the-mill remake. It’s also a powerful story about addiction, love, death, and finding the inspiration to continue on. At times, the film is almost too difficult to watch because of how unflinchingly these themes are explored. However, it’s certainly worth the watch.
In A Star is Born, Bradley Cooper’s character, Jackson Maine, is an alcoholic musician on the tail end of his career. We see how Jackson is barely functioning, going from gig to gig with a bottle of whiskey, oftentimes stumbling through conversations and struggling to stand up straight. We see how Jackson’s alcoholism affects those around him, with his brother begrudgingly acting as a handler to make sure Jackson doesn’t end up killing himself.
From the beginning of the film, the audience can see that Jackson is on a self destructive path. Like many others who have struggled with addiction, Jackson is worrisome to those around him. As is the case so many time, his friends and family are powerless to stop him from drinking. Jackson manages to keep performing, but off stage he barely functions.
The plot revolves around Ally, a young singer and songwriter whom Jackson meets and falls in love with. While she’s conflicted about his rampant alcohol abuse, she falls in love with him as well and the two embark on tour together, with Jackson showing Ally the ropes of show business and co-writing songs together.
The love between these two drives the story forward and we see the highs and lows of Jackson’s addiction and the way that it affects both of their careers and relationship. It’s an authentic portrayal of the disease of addiction and it doesn’t pull any punches.
The movie itself is chock full of depth, with heartwarming and emotional scenes along with timeless wisdom. We see two real characters struggle with pitfalls and trappings of success, the real strains that it can put on a relationship, and the reality of struggling with alcoholism and addiction. One of the best quotes of the movie is delivered by Bobby, Jackson’s brother in the film played by Sam Elliot.
“Twelve notes and the octave repeats. It’s the same story told over and over, forever. All any artist can offer the world is how they see those twelve notes. That’s it. He loved how you see them.”
It’s through this quote that we see how Jackson truly loved Ally for the way she saw the world. These two inspired one another to create beautiful music. Unfortunately, we also see how the pressures of show business and the disease of addiction can ultimately destroy a person. Towards the end of the film we witness this in action.
Minor spoilers ahead, but towards the end of the film, Jackson Maine finally enters rehab and gets clean. During this time, Ally’s career really takes off. When the two finally reunite, Jackson expresses regret over his past actions and wishes to be a better husband. They decide that they will tour together in order to boost both their careers and get back to what they both love. However, Ally’s manager finds Jackson alone and promises that the two will never tour together ever again. He says that Jackson’s image is forever ruined and that he would only tank Ally’s career if they got together again.
In despair, Jackson decides to take his own life, fully believing that Ally would be better off without him. At the end of the film, we see Ally preparing to perform a memorial concert in honor of Jackson, and we know that she faces a tough choice. She can either give in to the despair of losing the man she loved, or she can continue on and keep her head held high. In the last scene of the film, we see Ally look definitely into the camera, showing that she has decided to carry on his and her legacy through her music.
Audiences will feel inspired by the message of “A Star Is Born”, which teaches us that while despair and addiction can envelop a person’s life, no matter how much we love them, we have to take care of ourselves. You cannot cure someone else’s alcoholism, you can only continue to love them, help them when possible, and hope they are able to recover. We see that Ally is able to overcome her grief surrounding Jackson’s death, and while she may never fully get over it, she is going to continue living and performing.
Cooper should be commended for the way he drew from elements of his own past and to create a film that explores the demons of its main characters. Cooper has mentioned struggles with addiction before and has worked hard to overcome his own demons to achieve fame and success while inspiring others.
About the Author
Matthew Boyle is the Chief Operating Officer of Landmark Recovery, a chain of drug and alcohol rehab facilities. He has been working in the healthcare space for 7 years with a new emphasis on recovery. Before his ventures into healthcare, Matthew graduated from Duke University in 2011 Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree. After Duke Matthew went on to work for the Boston Consulting Group before he realized his true passion lies within Recovery. His vision is to save a million lives in 100 years with a unique approach to recovery that creates a supportive environment through trust, treatment, and intervention.