A Star is Born: The Price of Fame
Dana reflects on the hit film and asks if it fits in with how we see IRL celebs
Please note if you haven’t seen the film that there are lots of spoilers ahead!
The third remake of the 1937 original film, A Star is Born features an important dialogue on how fame morphs and moulds people. It is told through the tragic love story of Lady Gaga’s Ally and Cooper’s Jackson Maine. Jackson is a washed-up blues singer, who is trying to hold onto what little fame he has, despite his lack of interest and cynicism in being scrutinized in the public eye. Ally, however is working a tedious night job, while she writes songs and enjoys singing, she sings occasionally at a drag bar, but feels uncomfortable to sing her own songs.
A Star is Born features an important dialogue on how fame morphs and moulds people
‘Shallow’ is a powerful song that is first heard when Ally sings it to Jackson a parking lot on the night they meet. He becomes instantly besotted with it. The song becomes a motif of their love and it is repeated throughout the movie. The final time it is heard is when Ally sings it on her own at one of her concerts while Jackson is at home. When she sings it now, it’s played to a different beat on a grand stage. The song represents the stages of fame Ally is experiencing. By this point, she has been altered to appeal to the largest amount of people. The once powerful song about struggle and love has become a mainstream, meaningless hit. Although Ally’s career has skyrocketed past Jackson’s, her image has become a brand with provocative dance moves and backup dancers (both of which she resists as she desperately tries to hold onto the original gleam of her talent). Her outfits change gradually from T-shirts and shorts, to dresses, to sequinned skirts and grand ball gowns. Her hair also changes after a dispute with her manager.
The film also deals with the decline of fame and the toll that this takes on Jackson, a once-massive star. He is depicted as someone who has been weakened by being constantly in the public eye. He’s been hurt by past traumas of his childhood, and as a result, finds himself constantly searching for his next drink. When he stumbles across Ally, he suddenly has a degree of hope. We see him deteriorate from there, eventually invading the stage as Ally collects a Grammy award. He struggles to get on the stage and urinates on himself as he stands beside her as she tries to make an empowering speech. The audience laugh at his drunken state.
This image of the broken celebrity is recognisable in popular culture
This image of the broken celebrity is recognisable in popular culture. Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Heath Ledger are all examples of fame’s devastating impact. I am not saying that fame killed these celebrities, but I would argue that their transition into becoming famous over a short period of time, contributed to their sad stories. Mental illness and addiction can happen to anyone, even those who live in the public eye – the only difference is that they often feel more pressure to hide it because of fear of how the fans will respond or how they will be demonised further by the media. The pressure to hide what they are feeling often leads to unhealthy coping methods like substance abuse which disrupts their state of wellbeing. They then try even harder to avoid the glare of the paparazzi’s camera lens. This only leads the paparazzi to become even more intrusive as they desperately try to unearth what is happening, as to inform the world of the ‘shocking’ state the celebrity’s life is in and, in turn, causes a further eruption of panic amongst fans.
At the end of the film, Jackson takes his own life in a scene that is foreshadowed throughout the movie. When he first encounters Ally, at the bar where she’s performing, there are images of nooses outside on a rainbow billboard, and he also discusses how he attempted suicide as a child. The hints are there but seem irrelevant until the audience see him go into the garage at the end of the film. Ally talks to Jackson’s brother (Sam Elliott) after Jackson’s suicide and he mentions how he heard one of Jackson’s songs playing in a bar. At first, he was angry as they did not know him as he did and did not care about him when he was alive, but then he says he felt relieved as it meant that Jackson’s life was not all for nothing. This was also true when Whitney Houston was alive and struggling. The media revelled in her misfortune, printing unflattering pictures of her gaunt appearance and releasing countless tabloid pieces and sketches mocking her. They completely cast aside her talent and instead probed into her private life. However, upon her death, the news suddenly became warming and commemorative; she even inspired two documentaries on her life to be released posthumously. The signs were there but the media kept pushing and eventually her fame became a story of tragedy.
I think people should see this film because it is a cry for help from Hollywood
I have no doubt that the film will pick up countless Oscars, including Best Actor and Actress for Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga and perhaps best Director for Bradley Cooper, but that is not why I think people should see this film. I think people should see it because it is almost a cry for help from Hollywood. The very end of the film sees Ally singing ‘I’ll Never Love Again’ at her husband’s tribute. By singing such a heartfelt song to many people, she is expected to publicly display her pain to gawking fans. The song suddenly cuts to Jackson singing it to her on the piano; it is a painful and beautiful moment, signifying the shift from their home life and love to her very public grieving. This moment perfectly sums up the film. It is a raw and unbridled story of what occurs behind the glitzy award ceremonies and televised public appearances.
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