*Note, spoilers contained.
When I heard A Star is Born was finally out, I was excited and anxious to finally go and see it. My friends told me it was raw and beautiful. The movie got great reviews, and I knew Lady Gaga was a talented actress from following her career and understanding what she stood for. Eventually, I got my brother to go see it with me, and the movie did not disappoint.
It had an amazing soundtrack that was simply worth experiencing with high-quality theater speakers. As for the movie itself, it is not something you would go see if you wanted mindless entertainment. It is a movie that engages the audience to think about deeper issues. The movie has a lot of emotional layers that I am still unpacking. I keep thinking back to various scenes and remembering different things that were beautifully captured.
As an aside, the movie does a fantastic job of showcasing Lady Gaga’s talent and versatility as an artist. Before the movie, my brother was a skeptic of Lady Gaga and only really knew her because of her meat dress from the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards. By the end, he grew to appreciate her as an artist. The movie also depicted drag culture which has been influential in shaping Lady Gaga’s career and alter-ego. I thought this was a clever nod to the community and a way to popularize and normalize drag. A lot of issues are presented in the movie for its audience to ponder.
The movie grapples with difficult topics like drug and alcohol addiction and suicide. It does not answer any questions, but depicts these issues and how it affects people’s lives. It relied on some broad generalizations and stereotyping to explain these concepts to its audience. For example, Ally’s alcoholic mother was alluded to in order to psychologically explain why Ally decided to be with her alcoholic husband. The movie does not delve deeply into the psychology of trauma or childhood adversity—which I would argue is understandable given the scope and the length of the movie.
But because the movie does not serve to answer these questions, it is important for the audience to think about these issues: suicide as a mental illness, the guilt experienced by survivors of suicide loss, loving someone who is an alcoholic and/or drug addict.
For those who may be cautious about suicide depicted in movies and film, I thought the movie tastefully avoided graphic scenes of suicide and used cinematography to allude to the event. Foreshadowing was also done well. The character talked about how he attempted suicide when he was really young. After that moment, I immediately knew what was coming in the movie.
The movie did a really great job of capturing the subtleties and complexities of relationships. It left me understanding that love is beautiful, raw, devastating, unpredictable, and terrible. I cried at the end of the movie. The lady next to me balled her eyes out. My brother remembered a friend who completed suicide four years ago, and he asked the rest of his friends to have a moment of silence for the person.
Truthfully, I did not feel satisfied by the end of the movie. Not because of the movie itself, but because of my desire for life to be uncomplicated. The movie made me feel, and I would say that is the ultimate purpose of art.