I wanted to say this was a disaster. I don’t care for remakes or reboots, I think Bradley Cooper should be arrested for his follicle crimes, and despite acknowledging her expansive vocal prowess, I’ve never been a Lady Gaga fan. However, when I watched the trailer and heard those banshee yodels escaping her throat cavern as an adoring crowd cheered her on, I knew I was no match for something attempting to be so pop-culturally zeitgeisty.
I may be a mean cynic but I’m a sucker for a well-timed ballad, so this felt like the right place for me. And holy shit, A Star Is Born delivers. There is just enough requisite dialogue in this to move it from “Lana Del Rey-length music video” to “actual feature film,” and you can feel Lady Gaga’s blood, sweat, and tears in every note she sings.
If you’re entering the theatre simply desiring a couple solid musical numbers, then your $15 will not have been spent in vain. Unfortunately, outside of its music, the movie falls flat as only a two-dimensional vignette of common misogyny can.
Ally, the lead character played by Lady Gaga, is a woman who knows she has talent but needs to hear that she is sufficiently pretty to be an appropriate vehicle for said talent. Like any woman vying for a piece of the proverbial pie, she is just one man away from success. One man to lead her, to mold her, to push her through to the finish line. This man-shaped void is filled by her father, her husband, her manager, her producer, her choreographer, and her photographer, all of whom take credit or receive credit from other men for her creative output and appearance. Meanwhile, Ally cleans up after the men in her life. And I mean that literally. You see her physically cleaning up the messes created by her sloppy alcoholic (but well-meaning) husband, her megalomaniacal manager, her folksy father, and her father’s oblivious friends as they make decisions about her life around her to each other.
The filmmakers obviously did not intend to be releasing their movie amidst the backdrop of Brett Kavanaugh’s hearing, which is understandable, but it is difficult to go along with the story of a woman completely guided and defined by the men in her life when the stories of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh’s additional accusers are so fresh in my mind.
Much like the core narrative of A Star Is Born, the narrative of Dr. Ford and most sexual assault survivors is that of theft and sacrifice. Your story is taken from you by force without consent and is twisted to fit a format and a timeline you never had the chance to create, edit, or approve on your own. Many survivors speak to their helplessness, both in the moments they were violated, and afterward, as they attempted to pick up the pieces and continue living their lives, now burdened by an unassailable trauma. This movie may have started as a simple sketch of a woman rising and a man falling, triumphant to some and relatable to all. But with the added context of the age in which it has been remade, the movie becomes a deep dive into what it looks like to be stripped of your agency, and to be continuously invalidated for the sake of entertainment.
A Star Is Born is a classic tale, meant to be mutable, fluid, to adapt within each age it is reimagined. But the flaws of the inherent narrative are too real, too every-day damaging to continue being told in the form of a cinematic fantasy. One could hope that this is the last time anyone could think that this story, in this form, needs to be told, and that, in the future, we’ll have a new story to tell. A story with hopefully zero of Bradley Cooper’s gin dick.