By Michal Shvimer
Rest assured, you will find no spoilers within this article that are not revealed in the movie trailer.
“A Star is Born,” starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, is the fourth film rendition of “A Star is Born,” a story that has touched Hollywood and Broadway as a film and a musical. The cinematic love story portrays a passionate romance between two creative souls, brought together by their mutual love for music. Themes of substance abuse and depression threaten to compromise their relationship, but worry not, their love is steadfast.
When I saw the movie, I was moved by its cinematic beauty and its captivating music. The original soundtrack, written and performed by Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, was raw and emotional, as was their acting in the film.
However, I could not help but notice the problematic depiction of Gaga’s character Ally, a talented but stage-shy woman whose relationship with rockstar Jackson Maine brings her out of her “shell” and into the limelight.
This portrayal is a common Hollywood trope with the following storyline:
A rough-around-the-edges guy is attracted to a woman who is not very confident in herself, his unlikely love saves her from her own shyness, he becomes threatened by her newfound power because his attraction to her fed into his own power complex and their strained relationship becomes inevitable, but nevertheless, she remains devoted to him. After all, she owes her professional and personal success to him.
This problematic character arc is the love story we have accepted for generations, and we clearly haven’t outgrown it.
I was deeply disappointed to see Lady Gaga portray a character who I viewed to be both empowering and problematic. Gaga, being the radical icon she is, has never been one for social norms. It was surprising to see her in a role that seemed to contradict her real-life values.
Ally is a talented artist, resilient romantic partner and beautiful woman, which makes her incredibly empowering. But her character development into these roles is driven by her relationship with Jack. What makes Ally problematic is not her persona, but her character arc, which is reliant on a man’s support and validation to prove her self-worth.
“A Star is Born” is a visually beautiful film with a soundtrack I have been listening to on repeat for weeks. But the film didn’t depict the birth of a star in the way I was hoping it would. It showed a woman who fell in love with a man because he helped her fall in love with herself. Self love is a feeling each woman should innately have before even entering a partnership. Even though Jack showed Ally passion, he also brought endless turbulence and heartbreak into her life.
If I watched this movie when I was younger, I would have accepted the same truth as I did growing up on films like “A Walk to Remember,” the “Twilight” series and “Dirty Dancing” — a truth that says it’s OK if you don’t love yourself, maybe you’ll find a man who will. And once you do, hold onto him, even if he exhibits unhealthy behavioral patterns that leave you worse off, because his love for you is more valuable than the love you have for yourself.
Ally was born a star, and I wish she didn’t need Jack to help her see that.