While Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut was a remake—the third, actually—I must confess I have not watched the original film which was released in 1937 led by Fredric March and Janet Gaynor, nor the other two versions, which starred none other than Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand, alongside James Mason and Kris Kristofferson respectively—so what I will do is discuss this particular film for its own merits.
First off, let’s talk about the casting. I love Lady Gaga—as an artist and musician. I do think she is one of the most important artists of our generation. Acting is of course an entirely different league to performing musically. For first-time director Bradley Cooper, choosing Lady Gaga as his leading lady, knowing she’s never starred in any film before, was a gamble. Truth be told, I had qualms, but only because Lady Gaga is such a larger-than-life persona, that I thought it would be difficult to see her as anybody else. But just as academy award-winner Bradley Cooper delivered his performance as Jackson Maine flawlessly, Lady Gaga held her own and portrayed Ally beautifully. Though much of her character was in fact inspired by the real self—like the insecurities, and how the gay community supported her when she first started out in the music scene—she was able to meld both the character she was playing and her real-life attributes seamlessly and it truly was a joy to watch. By incorporating herself, she managed to execute the role with a level of authenticity, but also, she had a deep understanding of Ally that enabled her to give the character a life of her own.
Since we’ve touched on her real-life insecurities, let’s further discuss that. I think her performance was believable because it came from a real place, and I just really appreciate that she let that vulnerable side of her come through on screen. In an interview with Los Angeles Times, she admitted, “When my character talks about how ugly she feels—that was real. I’m so insecure. I like to preach, but I don’t always practice what I preach.” As someone who’s honestly had similar insecurities, I found that message so powerful, especially to young girls. In the end, talent is talent, and that—alongside strength of character—is the true measure of greatness. Additionally, beauty, self-worth and being loved comes from a place that’s much deeper than just physical attributes.
I think the movie was also progressive for the way it handled issues such as alcoholism and substance abuse. Bradley played the part of a famous musician (he held his own, too), who’s struggling with addiction, which eventually took toll on his—and Ally’s—career, a tale that has rang true in several real-life celebrities. For a moment there, I was kinda worried it represented the trope of how a woman needs to save the man. There was also a scene where Jackson seemed jealous or anxious of Ally’s growing success. But he was able to redeem himself eventually. And just like how women shouldn’t be pressured to take on their partner’s toxic behavior, Ally wasn’t just there to take in Jackson’s bullsh*t. She did make it clear that he had to get his sh*t together, and that she is taking on her career on her own terms. Still, it wasn’t like she easily dismissed her partner’s struggles. “It’s a disease it’s not your fault,” she told him in that awful, heartbreaking scene.
More than anything, I felt like it was a raw and honest love story. At the center of all the drama and their individual personal demons, was their deep and genuine love for each other. There is a lot to unpack about that ending, but I don’t want to spoil that at least. (If you’ve watched the other remakes, then you’re familiar with how it’ll go) Save that I had to stifle away a tear or two. If you’re a sucker for sad movies, better to prepare a pack of tissues.
Art by Marian Hukom
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
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