This fourth remake of the original 1937 film by the same name has proven to become a classic all its own because of the astounding performances by Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga and soul-sensitizing music that speaks deep to the human need for connection and acceptance. Produced, directed and written by Bradley Cooper in collaboration with Eric Roth and Will Fetters, the film stars Cooper as country-rock musician songwriter Jackson Maine who struggles with alcoholism and deep emotional pain rooted in his rough childhood. Cooper surprised me. Not only is he a superb actor but his musical skills and song-writing abilities brought this film to another realm. His performances were heartfelt and genuine, truly reaching down deep in the character’s struggling soul. This film is a raw portrayal of human weakness but also the real human struggle for love.
Lady Gaga portrays Ally, the aspiring young artist who happens upon Jackson Maine at a drag bar where she sings after work hours to hone her talent. Even though Beyoncé and other artists were considered for this role, I believe only Lady Gaga could pull it off with such mastery and emotion. Stripped of all her makeup and accessories as we normally see her, Lady Gaga performs with her raw talent that is simply affecting. As Ally, she shares with Jackson some of her songs that she writes.
After spending the evening talking about music and the industry Jackson invites her to his next concert. She refuses saying she needs to work. When his driver shows up at her work to take her to his concert, she quits her job and goes blindly into this adventure. Jackson sings a song she wrote and coaxes her to join him on stage. Timidly she accepts, only to be wildly cheered on by his fans. The most affecting part of the film for me was when they sang together the song, “Shallow” written by Lady Gaga. It’s proof that music speaks to the soul since no words can describe how it made me feel. I just felt it.
Ally stays with Jackson for the rest of his tour, singing with him and forming a romantic bond that will prove to be lasting. All the while his alcoholism flares and she sees another side of him, but truly loves him despite his flaws.
Bradley Cooper as Jackson Maine and Lady Gaga as Ally. Copyright Warner Bros.
While on tour with Jackson, Ally meets Rez (Rafi Gavron) a record producer who wants to take her talent to the next level. He molds her from a country artist to a pop singer, much to the dismay of Jackson. Her popularity soars while his career spirals out of control from his addictions. When a younger artist to sing a tribute to Roy Orbison at the Grammys replaces him, Jackson becomes heavily intoxicated. Ally receives Best New Artist and Jackson embarrasses her on stage. Soon after he heads to a rehabilitation center.
Through all the ups and downs of their relationship, Ally really does love Jackson so much that she wants to cancel her European tour to be with him when he returns from rehab. Their relationship, though disrupted by the horrid effects of alcohol and drugs, still has an enduring quality to it. Love truly gives both the impetus to support and help one another. Jackson helps Ally to become famous and Ally helps Jackson faces his inner demons.
No earthly love is ever completely and utterly unconditional. That can only come from God Himself. Yet, feeble human beings that we are, authentic love leads us to sacrifice ourselves for another—to give without counting the cost, to give selflessly in love. Both Jackson and Ally were trying to do this for one another. Though misguided by his overwhelming inner pain, Jackson gave of himself for Ally so that she may have a future. But, what is a future without love? Can we live without love? Ally discovers that no matter what we try to do for our loved one who is struggling we cannot go through it for them, but can only be with them, next to them, in their pain. Each one has his or her own journey to make. Yet, when we know we are loved it makes the journey that much more bearable and hopefully more enduring for those who feel hopeless in their psychological sufferings. Love breaks us out of our selfishness to seek out the other, to go beyond ourselves to some greater good for another person. It is the only thing that truly matters in life beyond what any wealth or fame can give. Love alone gives meaning and purpose to our lives. As St. Paul says, “Love never ends” (1 Cor. 13:8).