If you have not yet been to see Bradley Cooper’s A Star is Born, starring himself and Lady Gaga, then I strongly recommend that you do. A heartfelt, tragic love story between a breathtakingly talented woman and a troubled rock star, who encourages her to shine, this film is undoubtedly Cooper’s finest piece of work and a raw, powerful piece of art that makes a momentous leading role for Gaga. But prepare the tissues, as this film will most probably leave you emotionally exhausted and a little heartbroken. Beyond this, it will leave you with a strong and relevant message about how we live in today’s society and the marks we each leave in the world.
The film addresses a number of significant subjects including gender, alcoholism and addiction, but what stands out is the way the story is used to subtly question how our lives have become focused in modern society. Ally’s (Gaga) and Jackson’s (Cooper) stories grapple with how to keep their work genuine whilst making it in an industry as superficial as music. However, there is an underlying sense that the motivations and authenticity of society as a whole are being questioned too.
We learn that Ally has been told that she will never be a successful singer, despite her talent, because of the way she looks and, even when her career takes off, those around her remain preoccupied with image, pressuring her to change her appearance and trying to make her performances bigger and “better”, rather than focusing on the beauty of her voice itself and what she has to say. Cooper seamlessly incorporates this commentary on our tendency as a society to concentrate on our image, while achieving a materialistic vision of success and happiness.
Some films might have stopped at this pessimistic social criticism, yet, what arguably gives the film so much resonance is the way it simultaneously provides a solution for overcoming these fundamentally flawed attitudes. Early on in the film, already successful Jackson tells Ally that the most important part of being an artist is speaking your truth: ‘everyone has talent’ but what is really special is having something to say and to say it from your soul. This is the beginning of a greater message: what’s important is what’s inside us, rather than the image and perception of success. Before Ally’s career takes off, when the film’s focus is the music and the growing love between the two singers, her voice and the music are full of power and meaning, filling the screen and physically giving the audience goose-bumps. However, as she is altered by success, her performances become less and less impactful, and it is clear that she was far happier when she was singing in her own image with Jackson, than as the version of Ally that people around her want her to be.
In today’s world, where seemingly superficial individuals sit in the highest seats of power, serving their own images and the appearance of success are more important than honesty and passion, it is easy to feel lost and disheartened. A Star is Born seems to have tapped into this emerging feeling, recognising that there is also a ‘longing for change’ in society and is perhaps attempting to spark the kind of passion that we see in the pair’s music. Within its appeal as a complex and captivating romance, this film carries a message that real fulfilment comes from connecting with others and from having something to say that is real. Like we see in Ally’s performances, you get more out of life if what you put in is coming from somewhere genuine and deep.