Flicks With Nicki – ‘A Star Is Born’

Posted by Nicki Salcedo October 16, 2018

Nicki Salcedo

When an alcoholic rock star meets a woman with a singing talent that matches his own, he helps her start her music career. Ally (Lady Gaga) has to deal with her sudden fame. Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) battles addiction and jealously while his career plummets.

If you are wondering if you should see “A Star Is Born” written and directed by Bradley Cooper, you should. We meet Jackson Maine on stage with his jagged voice. He sounds like a real singer and not the actor who voices the iconic Marvel character Rocket the Raccoon. We forgive his sweaty hair, because his eyes beckon us closer. The audience roars in approval. He is a star.

The movie quickly shows us that stardom is crappy and creative people are destined for tragedy. Jackson stumbles into a drag bar looking for alcohol and sees the Ally, the only cis-woman in the show. Ally is a startlingly good singer who catches Jackson’s attention.

I’m sure this was supposed to be touching, but Jackson is drunk from the start of the movie to the end. Maybe I’m picky. When my eyes lock with a man and we’re falling in love, I’d like for him to be sober.

Jackson swoops in and “saves” Ally from her ordinary life including her gay best friend and single father played by Andrew Dice Clay. Jackson convinces her to take the stage and when she does, her life changes forever. But when fame comes, he doesn’t respect Ally’s pop star status and fails to see that his depressed and alcohol fueled world is no better.

He is drunk when he sings. He is drunk when she sings. He is drunk when they first kiss. He is stale stinky drunk when they first make love. His is drunk when she becomes a pop star, when they get married, when she wins awards. He is drunk when she gives him the world’s sweetest dog.

I understand that his alcoholism is part of the tragedy. But more of the tragedy is Ally’s acceptance of this man who is broken beyond repair.

And you are wondering why I said you should go see this movie.

The acting was carefully delivered by an unexpected cast. I was moved by Dave Chappelle and Andrew Dice Clay. Yes, two famous comedians. Bradley Cooper, the director, gave them some of the interesting lines in the movie. Clay and Chappelle did well in the Obi-Wan Kenobi mentor roles. They brought a reality to the dialogue that might have been lost with more classically trained actors.

And I will fight anyone who says anything negative about Sam Elliott. He is perfection. In one scene, Mr. Elliott glances over his shoulder as he puts his car into reverse. There are tears in his eyes, and your heart is torn from your chest.

Awards and accolades will certainly follow this film. But it isn’t a perfect movie.

Ally is beautifully played by Lady Gaga. Her voice, her face, her nose, and her eyes are mesmerizing. Not only is her voice astounding, but her acting is good. At times it felt like a documentary. I wonder if she channeled her own rise to fame as pop star and the perceived shallowness that comes with it.

My dearest wish is that we get to see her in other films after this, because this movie was not about her. At. All. It was a movie about men.

Besides a couple of backup dancers, women are almost entirely absent from the film. Dave Chappelle’s real life wife appears in a wonderful scene of domestic tranquility, but she’s the brief exception. This movie does not pass the Bechdel Test.

The Bechdel Test measures how women in fiction are represented. Typically, it’s in movies, but trust me, you should check books and other media for this. To pass the test there should be at least two named women who talk to each other about something other than a man.

The movie asks many questions. Who loves us? Who do we love? Who is forgotten? What makes us want to live? What makes us want to die? Here’s the biggest question: Why didn’t anyone tell Ally to run away from this man?

It’s a tragic love story. The ending was alluded to in the previous versions of this film and the movie trailers. The ending was alluded to in a stark visual at the beginning of the film and by a story that Jackson tells during the movie. The ending is no secret. I wish they would have tried to surprise me. Think of how the movie might be different if they put a new spin on the end. I’m not even asking for a happy ending. Just something new. Nope.

I don’t like movies that try to make us cry, but I don’t mind crying in the darkness of the movie theater. “A Star Is Born” could not to squeeze a single tear from me. Not today. Not ever.

It wasn’t a romance. I know romance. It wasn’t a love story. I never believed that they loved each other. Rather they loved “at” each other. What they both loved is the music. That’s where the chemistry and strength of this film was real.

How much should we sacrifice for our craft? How much of our soul is depleted when we reveal ourselves through art? I asked these questions of myself as I sat in the theater.

This is a great movie to see with a friend and discuss after. Whose voice did Jackson steal? Where are all the women? What would have happened if Ally had even one female friend? What did Ally gain from him? Can we ever escape from the hurt in our past? What matters most: the poetry of the lyrics or the bravery of standing on stage?

Grade: B- It was beautifully acted, but the script was predictable and misogynistic. I hated Jackson Maine’s character from beginning to end. And I still liked the movie enough. The energy of the music carried me. Go see it and let me know what you think. We didn’t go for the story anyway. We went to see Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper sing. Oh, did they sing.

Like this movie? Try this alternate movie pick: “Lady Sings the Blues

Nicki Salcedo enjoys going to the movies. She likes the darkness of the movie theater. She likes the distraction of a movie on an airplane plagued by turbulence. Even when she watches a movie that she doesn’t like, she likes the movie going experience and being transported to another world. It’s rare that she ever wants her money back.

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