A Star is Born is a story about the relationship of a singer-songwriter, Ally, and a fading country rock musician, Jackson Maine. Jackson (Bradley Cooper) discovers Ally (Lady Gaga) in a drag bar. After Jackson invites her on his tour, she is signed by a record producer. Ally skyrockets to stardom and, along the way, marries Jackson. However, as Ally rises, Jackson begins to flounder. In the end, Jackson takes his own life, believing it is best for Ally. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper both deliver astounding performances and are deserving of the many accolades to come.
As a tragedy, A Star is Born is a stunning work of art. But it is not the art I want to focus on. Rather, I want to dissect the film’s relationship between Jackson and Ally. At its core, this movie is about relationship, identity and death.
What are the parts that make up a healthy and happy life? Harvard conducted a study lasting over eighty years on this one question. Since 1938, they have studied individuals throughout their lives, including their successes and failures. They watched as some rose to power and other lives crumbled. The study concludes that of all things that might constitute “happiness,” close relationships are what keep people happy throughout their lives.
The relationship between Jackson and Ally burns like wildfire at the beginning of the film, but as time pushes on, their foundation falters.
Jackson has lived a life of self-absorption in which he has turned to substance abuse to numb his pain.
At his best, he is a man who empowers Ally to take hold of her life. The moment he invites her on to the stage of his concert perfectly sums up his belief in her. But at his worst, he fails to trust Ally with his misgivings about her compromising career.
After Ally’s rise to stardom, he is unable to be honest with her. Only in his drunkenness does he confront her with his true feelings on her career choices. This lack of honesty and trust leads him deeper into his self-absorption and substance abuse.
Unable to see her worth, Ally showcases her insecurity. At first, she trusts Jackson to the point of joining him onstage, only too quickly followed by trusting her identity and career to an industry music manager. As she skyrockets into stardom, she loses sight of herself and grows apart from Jackson.
At her best, Ally selflessly loves and protects Jackson. When a man berates Jackson for an autograph, she instinctively throws a punch, demonstrating her protective nature. When she wants him on the tour even at the cost of her own career, we see a glimpse into her love. Ally is willing to put her own career advancement on hold to usher Jackson back into the normalcy of life. But he never sees what she is willing to sacrifice for him.
At her worse, Ally puts career over relational connection. Ally and Jackson’s career and relational disconnect paired with Jackson’s substance abuse creates a canyon of pain they cannot cross.
In the beginning, Jackson asks Ally to trust him, and for a while, she does. But as the film progresses, they grow apart due to the hurt inflicted by one another. Subtly, the pain of Ally forfeiting her image to her manager digs into Jackson. Likewise, Jackson, diving head first into substance abuse, brings utter embarrassment on both of them at the Grammy’s.
All of the pain points culminate in the end when both are broken and unable to trust one another. Taking his own life, Jackson demonstrates his belief that removing himself is the only way to protect Ally from himself. Ally, on the other hand, believes the only way to protect Jackson is by not telling him the truth of why her tour is ending early.
NO CONNECTION WITHOUT HONESTY
The tragedy of Jackson is that of a man desiring connection, but unable to put his desire into words. He believes a lie that he would destroy his wife’s career. When we choose not to communicate with each other what is going on inside us, we tend to spiral down into darkness. The darkness blinds Jackson. In the end, this tragedy is also Ally’s. She too deeply desires connection but is unable to be honest about how she chooses Jackson over her career.
A tragic cautionary tale, A Star is Born, delivers a great case study in relational dynamics…a great reminder to be mindful and diligent in our relationships and that we must be honest with one another. For we are at our healthiest when we have strong relationships with man and God. It’s when we only focus on ourselves that we don’t see the other. We need relationships in our lives that will call us to a higher place. We need that brutal honesty. Relationship is not just some good idea; it’s the key to the kingdom…the key to a healthy life.