“I want you to look right in my eyes
To tell me you love me, to be by my side..."
It seems like a simple request: To have someone look at you and see you for who you truly are. Having someone like what they see – and want to stay – isn’t as easy. On the surface, A Star Is Born may be a film about the rise of Ally’s (Lady Gaga) career, and the demise of Jackson Maine’s (Bradley Cooper), but beyond ‘the shallow it is about their complicated and unyielding love for each other.
From their very first encounter, we can feel the beating hearts of both characters on screen. One of my favorite moments in the entire film is when Jackson comes backstage to meet Ally after her performance at the drag bar. Jackson asks if he can take off one of Ally’s taped eyebrows. He is so gentle when he peels off the thin black piece of tape, and when he looks at her, it is a look of admiration, never judgement. As both the actors and characters, Gaga and Bradley never have an ounce of judgement toward each other. They share an electric and singular chemistry that is difficult to fabricate.
Of course, not all relationships are perfect. Jackson’s alcoholism and drug abuse is the ticking time bomb of their union. Ally is very patient and at one point she even says, “It’s not your fault. This is a disease.” However, as much as she wants him to be alright, it isn’t her choice. Jackson was already deteriorating before he met her, and continues to do so even if she gives him the best years of his life. Bradley Cooper is at his best. With a single glance, we can see when he is sober and when he is wasted. Beyond the slurred speech, and stumbling, his eyes radiate years of pain and, when he’s looking at Gaga, glimmers of hope. As Ally, Lady Gaga is a selfless actress and focuses on intently listening to Bradley and empathizing with his character, never once shying away from trying to alleviate his pain.
It is no secret that Lady Gaga and Ally are quite similar: Italian American aspiring singer- songwriters who are given an opportunity to succeed if they conform to the music industry. This role was familiar territory for Gaga, but that’s what would make it all the more challenging. Nobody likes confronting their fears or vulnerabilities, but A Star Is Born forces Gaga to hold up a mirror to herself and deal with the aspects of her life and career that scare her the most. The most difficult part about acting is being believable – being human. Lady Gaga has proven herself to be a natural by unapologetically revealing her humanity on screen without trying to hide behind wigs, costumes, or even music. Every lyric she has written, and every note she sings, only elevates her authenticity and thus our compassion for Ally. The songs in the film are truly of musical theatre standard. A song comes when words are not enough to convey emotion. Bradley and Gaga may not be breaking into song, but the film’s music is a heightened language for the two of them to communicate their love for each other.
In the final scene of the movie, Ally sings a song that Jackson wrote for her: “I’ll Never Love Again.” It is one of the most beautiful songs in the film. Back to her natural hair, stripped of the pop facade she created, she pays tribute to Jackson. She may have lost the great love of her life, but he helped her fall in love with herself. Jackson helped her believe in herself and gave her the push she needed to chase her dreams. The great love story of A Star Is Born is actually the one Ally has with herself. Through Jackson’s love for her, Ally finds who she is as an artist and the belief that she’s worthy to succeed. Sometimes it only takes one person to believe in us, as Lady Gaga says of her director and on screen partner Bradley Cooper, but you have to be willing to agree with them.
Bradley and Gaga are exceptional as actors and musicians and leave you wanting to experience the journey of their love story over and over again. This is a true marker of the beginning of Lady Gaga’s career as an actress, and what an explosive way to start.
- Marc Cohen