A Star Is Born All Over Again

If you haven’t already seen A Star Is Born in theaters, please do yourself a favor and watch right now and come back to this article. I’m not only saying this because there are spoilers ahead, but the movie is truly meant for a theatrical experience. It’s a love letter for those of us who like to mix the best of both worlds — that of acting and music (trust me, you’re going to want to listen the soundtrack over and over again!) — without the cheesiness and big gestures of typical musicals.

As for the rest of us who have seen it, we know that the newest re-make of A Star Is Born was released over a month ago, specifically on October 5th, 2018. For many reasons, it has and will be stuck with me for a long time. I’m an avid movie connoisseur, so it’s rare for me to get this attached to one, and A Star Is Born now holds a special place in my heart. As his first directing gig, Bradley Cooper surpassed my expectations of mediocrity. There was nothing about the movie that I thought could have been executed better, and the changes applied to the timeless plot made it even more enjoyable for our generation.

Most people didn’t know that this year’s A Star Is Born is the third remake of the original 1937 version starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March. It’s no surprise that even after 81 years, the movie’s basic elements still stand. So what makes the story so timeless that a movie has been made over and over for each coming generation? A Star Is Born shines a light on universal themes that stand through generations. Whether it’s 1937 with Janet Gaynor, 1954 with Judy Garland, 1976 with Barbra Streisand, or 2018 with Lady Gaga, we can all understand love, fame, artistic talent, addiction, and loss. It just takes on different yet similar forms throughout all four movies. Although I haven’t seen all of the movies, I can already make a good guess that each generation claims their version as being the best one, because that’s the one that relates to them the most.

What the 2018 A Star Is Born does differently for our generation is that it molds declining musician Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) as someone we can really sympathize with as his deep backstory unfolds the more we get to know his character. As we often forget with celebrities, A Star Is Born reminds us that they’re human too, each with their own demons. I recently watched a Vanity Fair interview with rising musician Billie Eilish, and at just 16 years old she already attests to the sadness that artists often feel in the music industry. Throughout the movie, we come to understand why Jackson uses alcohol to numb himself from the things he can’t really face, starting with his unfortunate childhood with his father, all the way to his realization of declining stardom and opposition to the direction Ally (Lady Gaga)’s career is going. His disappointment with her “cookie-cutter pop” sound, also strongly felt by the audience, was something he couldn’t properly articulate to her and resorts to calling her ugly instead. He also couldn’t face the fact that he wasn’t the main attraction anymore through dissatisfaction with only playing guitar during the Roy Orbison tribute, so he ends up ruining Ally’s Grammy acceptance. That scene was hands down the biggest secondhand embarrassment I’ve ever felt in my life.

We, as an audience, also root for Ally to succeed. Her struggles of achieving recognition within the music industry were present and made clear from the beginning, attributing them to her offbeat image, down to the size of her nose. Another universal theme the movie brings up that a lot of women can relate to: being dismissed for not fitting society’s beauty standards, despite her talents being way more than sufficient for the job. Overall, we want them both to succeed together. I mean, the best songs — “Shallow,” “Always Remember Us This Way,” “Music to My Eyes,” and “Look What I Found” — came from the period they were singing and touring together (except that last one…).  There is so much hope as we see Ally’s rising career as an established musician and songwriter, before she gets signed with her aggravating manager. But those hopes ultimately get shattered as Jackson delves deeper into his addiction, and Ally strays from her genuine sound.

As if our hearts weren’t already heavy from the weight of problems coming between the couple we were rooting for, Jackson ultimately breaks them. The way he commits suicide was something that today’s generation knows quite well. It recognizes the reality of recent tragedies like Kate Spade, a successful and famous fashion designer, who was battling her own demons and unable to cope, and also hung herself. A Star Is Born reminds us of the downfalls that fame and incredible success can bring, despite society constantly aiming for it.

The true moment that a star is born is at the very last scene, as Ally looks straight at us after perfectly executing today’s version of a Whitney Houston ballad. While most, including me, describe the film as a sad one, it’s actually a hopeful one. Ally, alone on stage, goes back to her original hair with very minimal makeup and gives the audience a genuine performance, which didn’t fail to leave me and the rest of the viewers in tears (inserting that clip of Jackson singing it to her before he died was just the cherry on top!). These slight changes give us the hope that, despite the tragedy Ally experienced, she has finally matured and come into her own identity as the confident star musician that will go on and make music the way she wants to.

Over a month later, I’m still obviously obsessed with this film alongside its original soundtrack. Graced with the talent Lady Gaga instills through her powerful voice and songwriting in tandem with Bradley Cooper’s surprisingly solid vocals, the soundtrack takes you along Jackson and Ally’s journey together and separately. It was an admirable change to see Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper step out of their usual duties and see them perfectly accomplish both acting and music. I hope that they win all the awards in existence as they did a great job of telling this story in a way that today’s world can understand. Since A Star Is Born gets changed along with the culture of the times, it’s probably not a surprise if this 2018 remake ends up not being the last.