Arts & Media

A Star Is Born: Believe the Hype

Ali Bush Music Columnist ‘19

Picture Lady Gaga in a small drag club, belting La Vie En Rose, dressed as Edith Piaf, and dancing on tables. Yes, as an ardent Little Monster, I would pay copious amounts of money to see this, but thankfully it’s the opening scene of A Star Is Born. At first sight, Gaga is a show stopper. The title of the film blatantly screams in your head in the first scene: A Star Is Born, and it’s Lady Gaga.

The film is the third rendition of this familiar story of love, addiction, and music. The first version of the film was made in 1937, and then again in 1976, and as the film’s director, Bradley Cooper updates the film to critique today’s music industry. After a night of heartfelt flirtation and songwriting, a washed up, perpetually drunk rockstar Jack (Bradley Cooper) falls in love with Ally (Lady Gaga), a waitress who still lives with her hilarious father, but has a bellowing voice.  The two go on tour, sharing their love through the music they write together, but Jack’s drunk stumbling becomes more frequent and toubling. That’s just the beginning, though. As Ally belts a beautiful pop ballad “Always Remember Us This Way,” an obvious sense of foreboding is present throughout the rest of the film. Eventually, Ally becomes more famous than Jack, even though he’s the one who gave her her first chance at stardome.

The film touches on so many important themes in regards to the music industry, from sexism to addiction. While Jack encourages Ally to remain true to her own authentic voice, her music becomes increasingly shallow and sexual as she reaches new heights of fame. This points to the sad fact that women in the music industry, not only have to be be talented songwriters, but must change and sell their own image as more of their worth rests on their appearance than their talents. While Jack still writes his heartbreaking, truthful songs, Ally starts singing songs about flirty texting. The plot perhaps even rings somewhat true for Lady Gaga who had to navigate her own way of obtaining stardom, but maintain her own artistic voice.  

The film also touches on a familiar topic to musical biopics: how to live with and love an addict. Throughout the film Jack’s slurring and pill-popping becomes troubling frequent, and Cooper gives an amazingly moving performance as this boy who rose from being a rancher in Arizona to an international star. His character provokes the question of why the most dysfunctional people are always the ones who become immersed in fame, drugs, and yesmen. It’s probably because, as Jack constantly repeats throughout the movie, they have something to say.

The plot and acting of the movie do a lot to make this film an amazing movie, but of course, it’s the soundtrack, written by Lady Gaga and Lukas Nelson, that elevates the film to another level. Songs like “Shallow” and “I Don’t Know What Love Is” elevate happy moments to ecstasy and transform its saddest moments to unbearable tragedy. The song follow the trials of this dysfunctional couple and perhaps explain their thoughts and emotions better than they can themselves. More importantly, these songs connect us to these characters and with each other.

Image Credit: The Renegade Rip