Warning: Possible spoilers ahead.
I am not a drug addict. I am not an alcohol addict either. Yet, ‘A Star is Born’ manages to not only put me in the shoes of one, but makes me truly empathize with those around him. I think it manages to do this because at some point or another in our lives, we have all hurt someone we have loved. Said things we didn’t mean to, done things we regret doing. An overwhelming sense of guilt and self-hatred washes over us once we’ve realised what we’ve done. This is an emotion I think addicts and non-addicts have in common. Thus, as I watched A Star is Born, I couldn’t help but feel bad for Jack while also empathising with the reactions of those around him.
I felt their anger, resentment, fear, alienation was justified. You see, when you realise you’ve hurt someone, you want to be punished. You become so incapable of forgiving yourself for what you did that you can’t accept it when they forgive you, nor can you face your own self. The desire to just disappear from existence becomes overwhelming. This desire increases the more you isolate yourself, and the more you try to pretend that you are forever broken.
This is the crux of what ‘A Star is Born’ tries to explore. The brilliance of the film ishowit goes about doing so.
It warms you into the story by first playing to the tropes of a rom-com, and employing a simple meet-cute. It then lulls you with fuzzy feelings of love through beautiful songs performed by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. It keeps you invested by breaking convention and avoiding cliche tropes such as betrayal and selfishness. It is common in stories, especially romantic ones, that when one partner starts doing better than the other, that the central conflict is founded on jealousy. ‘A Star is Born’ is hopelessly romantic in that it recognizes that in true love, jealousy has little space to rear its ugly head. Thus, half-way through, you are—as I was—comfortable in your seat, enjoying two love-birds sing.
However, you are, and so are the filmmakers, aware that this is a film, and something must go wrong. It’s been hinted at, but the characters are so layered and the situations so nuanced and authentic that you are unsure which issue is going to take the main stage. That is till everything comes crashing down and we realise addiction permeates into every part of one’s existence. As much as we would like to think it’s just one theme in an otherwise complex being, it is in fact like cancer—in that it spreads if left unchecked. Thus, all the themes of love, fame, jealousy, self-worth, the fear of abandonment get tied into one ugly well-crafted knot.
I gave a spoiler warning at the start of the review as I do think I have indirectly hinted at how the story unfolds and that is something best experienced first hand. However, I also think that ‘A Star is Born’ is a beautiful film. From its score, cinematography, and acting to its story, you can watch it more than once and enjoy the journey each time. It is, after all, the mark of a good story to have a gripping beginning, an enjoyable middle, and a rewarding ending that only elevates the rest of the story. So fret not, and do check out this film as soon as you can.