A Star is Born: The transparency of stardom   

Film Review

Oscar season is quickly approaching, and there is one movie that stands out from the rest. With great performances from Rami Malek in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Lucas Hedges in “Boy Erased” and a directorial debut from Jonah Hill, the competition is stiff, but “A Star is Born” holds its own. The fourth iteration in a series of films stemming from 1937, the music-filled phenomenon captures the attention of the young and old. 

The first movie follows the storyline of a young woman searching for stardom under the guidance of an older, washed-up alcoholic actor. The two, of course, fall in love. The film follows their triumphs and trials. 

The subsequent films have followed this same plot, while, of course, taking a few creative liberties. The 1934 and 1954 versions pose the main characters as actors, while 1976 and 2018 star the characters as famous singers. These minutiae details take nothing away but rather cause each film to be interesting in its own right. This generation’s “A Star is Born” competes with the greatness of its predecessors. 

Bradley Cooper wows in his directorial debut while also acting, writing and producing his primal film. He learned to sing and play guitar from none other than country music artist and Willie Nelson’s son, Lukas Nelson, in preparation for his role as singing superstar Jackson Maine. 

Cooper’s performance is complemented by the unbelievably talented Stefani Germanotta, better known as Lady Gaga. Bare-faced and beautiful, Germanotta gives an utterly raw depiction of aspiring singer Ally in the film. 

Both actors disappear into their characters so well that one has to remind themselves that Ally and Jackson are not real. The audience can’t help but feel attached, each song and piece of dialogue is personal. 

Germanotta and Cooper are also supported by a balanced cast with the likes of the golden-voiced Sam Elliott, comedic talent Dave Chappelle and unmistakable Brooklyn native Andrew Dice Clay. 

The film gives the viewer insight into the harsh realities of staying in Hollywood. It’s so much to handle; the pressure to create masterpieces, intrapersonal uncertainties of being “good enough” and the struggle to stay true to one’s own self is something that’s relatable to most patrons. 

A quote from the film that reflects this theme is when Germanotta’s character responds to why she doesn’t sing her own songs. 

“Because like almost every single person that I’ve come in contact within the music industry has told me that my nose is too big and that I won’t make it.” 

This line refers to a similar line made by Barbra Streisand in the 1976 film, in which Kris Kristofferson responds with how beautiful she is. 

We, as the audience, respond to this in either outrage at the lunacy of such a concept or merely agree. For those of us who are outraged, we cannot believe that someone as talented and beautiful as an Ally character would be denied because of looks. Those in agreement see that she’s not the typical musical artist that we’ve seen before. But it’s those different qualities that make her an absolute star, and when a star shines, it’s light cannot be hidden. 

As a devoted Barbra Streisand fan, I simply had to see the reboot of her 1976 version, but after watching both, I realized these films aren’t reboots but remakes. 

Each film clearly pays homage to those before it, but are so different in terms of content. One striking difference between all these films is the music. 

The first two films are clearly more musical based and sing-songy with the voices of Janet Gaynor and Judy Garland. Barbra Streisand’s powerful vocals allow dancers to groove to the disco themes, while Germanotta and Cooper serenade the audience with soft rock and country vibes. Each film’s genre of music is relevant to the time period it was released. Each soundtrack drives each film and evokes emotion from everyone in the theater.

When I go to the movies, I watch with the intention of feeling something. Whether it be sadness, elation or absolute fear, it’s not worth my money if I don’t leave the theater exploding with emotions. 

“A Star is Born” left me feeling awestruck, frustrated and hurt. I desired so badly for the film to have the ideal happy ending, but that’s not how life works. 

And that’s the takeaway from this film, although stars are bright and they shine wherever they are, they only have a certain amount of time until they fall. 

Danielle Jackson

Freshman film major

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