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Film / A Star Is Born (2018)

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"We're far from the shallow now."

"I'll always remember us this way."

A Star is Born is a 2018 romantic musical drama directed by Bradley Cooper (in his directorial debut), starring himself and Lady Gaga. It's also the fourth version of A Star is Born to be made, following the original film in 1937 and the remakes in 1954 and 1976. Like the 1976 version, it is set within the music industry.

Jackson Maine (Cooper) is a veteran musician who discovers struggling singer Ally (Gaga) in a night club, and quickly takes her under his wing. Their mentor-protege relationship soon turns romantic, but as Ally's career takes off under Jackson's guidance, his begins winding down, which leads to strife between them.

Sam Elliott, Greg Grunberg, Shangela, Willam Belli, Dave Chappelle, Andrew "Dice" Clay, and Lukas Nelson (son of Willie Nelson) also appear, while Halsey and Alec Baldwin cameo as themselves. All the musical numbers in the film were performed live on set, and feature compositions by Gaga, Nelson, Cooper, Jason Isbell, and Mark Ronson.

This is not related to the 1948 film A Song Is Born.

A Trope is Born:

  • Adaptation Distillation: Zig-zagged. The movie expands on some elements of the previous adaptations, giving the male lead more of a solid backstory than we got in previous adaptations, where the female lead's backstory is somewhat truncated; this adaptation also gives the leads more equal screentime, whereas previous adaptations were more focused on the female lead.
  • Adaptational Name Change: Both leads have different names here than their counterparts in the other versions.
    • Cooper's Jackson Maine was originally known as Norman Maine (1937 and 1954) and then John Norman Howard (1976).
    • Gaga's Ally is named Esther in every past adaptation (last name Blodgett in 1937 and 1954, Hoffman in 1976). In the first two films Esther adopts the stage name Vicki Lester.
  • The Alcoholic: Jackson is plagued by his alcohol addiction. He also appears to have issues with cocaine and pills.
  • Award-Bait Song:
    • "Shallow" seems to be getting the most focus in its advertising campaign, and it's a major plot point in the film itself, as it's Ally's introduction to the music world. Unsurprisingly, it swept the award circuits.
    • "I’ll Never Love Again" Used as the finale of the film to great effect and clearly part of Lady Gaga's "For Your Consideration" package.
    • Zig-zagged with "Always Remember Us This Way" and "Is That Alright?" which are also soaring, dramatic ballads that would be award-bait in a movie that didn't already have two bigger numbers.
  • Award Show: Ally wins a Grammy. Jackson makes a drunken spectacle of himself at the ceremony.
  • Baritone of Strength: Bobby has one, purely due to being played by Sam Elliott. Jack has one as well, though it quickly becomes apparent that he's mimicking Bobby's voice, and his actual speaking voice is significantly softer.
  • Birds of a Feather: Ally and Jack. Singer-songwriters and musicians (Jack plays piano and guitar, Ally plays piano) who are the children of neglectful, alcoholic parents, and who both suffer from severe lack of self-worth/self-esteem, albeit for different reasons. Jack, due to his upbringing; Ally, due to the same, plus all the abuse she took from professionals in the music industry prior to meeting Jack.
  • Broken Bird: As mentioned above, Ally and Jack are both this, albeit to different degrees.
  • The Cameo: Halsey and Alec Baldwin appear as themselves.
  • Catchphrase: "I just wanted to take another look at you."
  • Celebrity Is Overrated: Part and parcel of the original story. This is most notable in the first act, as Ally has to get accustomed to how people both glorify and mistreat Jackson in public (she even punches a guy looking to use Jackson for revenge against an ex).
  • Celebrity Paradox: A Saturday Night Live episode hosted by Alec Baldwin is used as a major gig Ally picks up. Both Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga have been on SNL before.
  • Creator Backlash: In-Universe, Jackson shows disdain for one of his songs that starts up in a random bar he is visiting, saying he felt the song and his performance was all over the place tonally, even if the regular public can't tell.
  • Dark Secret: Jackson being raised by an alcoholic, neglectful father, a previously failed suicide attempt, dealing with hearing loss and feelings of deep insecurity drive him to his alcohol and drug addictions.
  • Deaf Composer: Jackson has issues with tinnitus, which only gets worse the more he plays on stage next to really loud speakers. He also refuses earplugs that would mitigate the problem because it would also hinder his ability to read the crowd.
  • Death by Childbirth: Starting off the tragedy that was Jackson's life was the fact that his mother died giving birth to him, leaving him without a mother and a father who couldn't have cared less about him.
  • Diegetic Musical: The film has an original soundtrack, and all the songs are performances in front of live crowds or for television.
  • Disappeared Dad: Jackson's father died when he was thirteen, likely of old age since he would have been 76 at the time, leaving him to be raised by his older brother Bobby.
  • Downer Ending: Just like in the three versions before this film, Jackson dies; and just like the first two versions, he commits suicide. It's implied that Ally and her career will continue to soar but she'll forever be heartbroken by Jackson's decision.
  • Driven to Suicide: Like in the first two versions, Jackson's death is a suicide. Unlike the first two versions, it is, in-universe, clearly a suicide (because he hanged himself), rather than perceived as a tragic accident (because he drowned)..
  • Evil Brit: Rez is presented as more or less the villain of the film (or unlikable at best), being toxic toward Ally at worst for most of the film, creating Ally's image as a manufactured pop star, and then he more or less nudges Jackson towards suicide. Even worse.
  • Fauxshadowing: Jackson was originally going to commit suicide by drowning, as in the 1937 and 1954 versions. This is foreshadowed by his interest in swimming while in rehab and the lyrics of "Shallow". Bradley Cooper claimed that he even scouted the beach where the scene would be filmed.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Anyone familiar with any other version of A Star Is Born before this one will know before going in that the male lead dies at the end.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • At the beginning of the movie when Jackson meets Ally backstage he has to ask her to repeat herself a couple times and we assume it's because it's just a lot of background noise. In reality he suffers from hearing loss.
    • An advertisement featuring nooses hangs outside the club where Jackson meets Ally. He commits suicide by hanging.
    • Jackson mentions a previous failed suicide attempt in his teens where he tried to hang himself from the ceiling fan with his belt. Guess how he ultimately kills himself.
    • When Ally leaves for her final grand concert, Jackson tenderly asks to get one last look at her before leaving and she obliges. It turns out to be his literal last look at her.
  • Functional Addict: Jackson is often too drunk or high to even stand up straight, but is a Consummate Professional whenever he goes on stage. At the Grammys, some people notice something is off as he plays back-up guitar for a musical number, but after a shaky start he kicks in and does as well as he usually does. Things don't fully fall apart until Ally accepts the award for best breakout artist, as he wanders on stage in a daze and even soils himself. This actually reflects comments made by a number of actors and musicians, especially in live performances, as they could be drunk, high or sick but when they have their craft to perform they suddenly have all the strength and clarity they need.
  • Gag Nose: Downplayed: Ally expresses how people in the music business makes fun of her nose, which Jackson later compliments.
  • Gay Bar Reveal: It takes a moment for Jackson to realize he's entered a drag bar shortly before meeting Ally. He doesn't seem at all perturbed by it though; alcohol is alcohol, after all.
  • Hate Sink: Rez Gavron is Ally Campano's manager who arranges for her to take on a more flashy image and more poppy songs. He demands that her husband Jackson "Jack" Maine not accompany her on her tour later after Jack gets out of rehab, which results in Ally wanting to cancel the tour. Rez berates Jack, who thought Rez was corrupting Ally's image, to his face for threatening to tank her career just with his presence and this results in Jack being Driven to Suicide. On top of that, Rez is not shown after to feel guilt for what has happened or face any consequences either.
  • I Can Change My Beloved: Ally stays with Jackson despite his alcoholism. Toward the end of the film, Bobby helps comfort Ally in their grief after Jackson’s suicide, explaining that Jackson had many deep-seated demons and that he only he (Jackson) could have confronted and dealt with. Both Bobby and Ally are unaware of Rez and Jackson's conversation prior to the latter's suicide. It's unclear as to whether knowledge of what Rez said to Jackson would have affected Bobby’s view of his brother's final decision.
  • I Coulda Been a Contender!: Ally's father has had success at running a coach company, but he still clings to his failed attempt at stardom himself, remembering when a famous singer said that he had more raw singing talent than Frank Sinatra. Ironically, this leads to him discouraging and inadvertently insulting his own daughter.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Jackson's biggest drive to clean up his act is for Ally's sake, not his own. In the end, he realizes he wants her to be happy even if he's not in the picture.
  • Invulnerable Knuckles: Averted. On the night they meet, Ally hurts her hand by punching a Jerkass bar patron who was harassing Jackson. The rest of their night together is spent with Jackson nursing her hand with frozen veggies and gauze.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Whatever his motives for confronting Jackson, Rez has legitimate cause for concern about the impact his self-destructiveness could have on Ally's career, especially after his Grammy fiasco. And, while she is initially uncomfortable with his managing decisions, she soon gets used to them and her career goes from strength to strength as a result.
  • Karma Houdini: The film doesn't depict Rez facing any consequences for more or less driving Jackson to suicide, though as the film ends shortly after that point, it is fairly likely Ally dumped him as her manager; or Rez may have felt personal guilt in the aftermath (very unlikely).
  • May–December Romance: The backstory of Jackson's parents, which explains Jackson's huge age gap with Bobby. The ages were stated in two separate scenes, but his mother was 18 when he was born while his father was 63.
  • Missing Mom:
    • Ally's mother was a drunk who abandoned the family.
    • Jackson's mom also died in giving birth to him.
  • Mood Dissonance: In the very last scene. Ally performs a song written by Jackson. The mood is soulful and sad—and then the final bars of the song are shown in a flashback to Jackson singing, in a hopeful moment, a moment when he and Ally thought he was going to recover and make art again. The contrast between what-is and what-might-have-been is very effective.
  • Music Is Politics: Ally changes her music and image in order to be a successful solo act.
  • Off the Wagon: Jackson completes detox and has been clean and sober for an undetermined period of time. Then Rez comes to the Maine home and delivers a to-the-core-of-his-soul "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Jackson. That night, after Ally leaves for her concert, Jackson drinks an entire bottle of vodka and ingests an entire bottle of pills, both which he had kept hidden. All of that before he kills himself.
  • Only One Name: Ally's last name prior to marrying Jackson is never revealed, and she performs/records under the mononym Ally. (According to the film's press materials her last name is Campana.)
  • Oscar Bait: As the fourth film version of a story that has gotten Oscar attention in its previous forms, released strategically in time for award season and boasting a "prestige" all-star cast, it's hard to ignore this one's aspirations.
  • Parental Neglect: This could be the reason why Bobby sold the land of his and Jackson's father's burial site. He characterizes their father as a neglectful drunk who never did anything for his sons. Jackson has fonder memories of him at first though he does recount to a counselor that when he attempted to commit suicide as a boy, his father didn't even acknowledge it.
  • Potty Failure: Jackson's humiliating drunken antics at the Grammys are capped off by him relieving himself in his pants on stage during Ally's acceptance speech.
  • Practically Different Generations: If the thirty-one year age gap between Sam Elliott and Bradley Cooper is any indication, Bobby is old enough to be Jackson's dad, rather than his older brother. This is lampshaded since Bobby mentions that the two were often mistaken for father and son in Jackson's younger years. Related to that...
  • Promotion to Parent: ...Jackson's dad died when he was 13, and his older brother, Bobby, apparently took care of him after that. As adults, Bobby works as Jackson's manager and still takes a paternal attitude toward him, and is still the one to manage his behavior (up until their falling out).
  • Pygmalion Plot: Ally quickly becomes Jackson's muse and love interest.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • After Jackson punches him in the face for selling the land of their father's burial site, Bobby lets loose all of his pent-up resentment by calling Jackson a barely-functioning drunkard who he constantly has to clean up his messes for, who is ungrateful for it and who idolizes a father who never did anything to earn such idolization.
    • After the above, Jackson shoots back that Bobby is a good-for-nothing coward who never had anything to say for himself.
    • Rez — upon learning Ally is cancelling a world tour — comes to her and Jackson’s home and basically tells Jackson that he is nothing more than a washed-up has-been who is singlehandedly ruining Ally's career just by being married to her and that he will eventually relapse into alcoholism, essentially urging him to leave Ally behind. Jackson, who is clearly haunted by those words, commits suicide on the same night.
  • Rock is Authentic, Pop is Shallow: Jackson and Ally make waves in the industry with their classic guitar strumming and raw vocals, embodied in Award-Bait Song "Shallow". When Ally goes solo, her music is more heavily produced pop; at first "Heal Me" marks her style transition while retaining her sincere lyric voice, but then we get the trashy-fun "Why Did You Do That" (about cute boys' butts) which Jackson interprets as her selling out. Following Jackson's death, Ally makes a return to "authenticity" when she performs at his funeral. However, while Jackson Maine certainly seems to believe that rock is authentic and pop is shallow, Ally seems satisfied with her pop career, and the movie doesn't make a definitive statement about which one is better.
  • Setting Update: Like the 1976 version, this one is based within the modern music industry instead of Hollywood.
  • Sibling Team: Jackson's manager is his much older brother Bobby, though Bobby has long since grown tired of his behavior and quits after they get into a fight.
  • Staircase Tumble: At the Grammy Awards, as Ally is accepting her Best New Artist award, a clearly drunk and high Jackson stumbles on the stairs, tripping on the first step before getting back up again and making it on stage.
  • Stylistic Suck: The lyrics for "Why Did You Do That?", along with Jackson's clear disapproval of them, give off the impression that the song itself is deliberately written to come across as a shallow, vapid pop song compared to the other songs that Ally performs.
  • Suicide for Others' Happiness: Similar to previous incarnations, once Maine is told that he's only going to drag Ally's career down with his substance abuse issues he decides to commit suicide. Not by drowning like previous incarnations, but by going into his garage after getting drunk and taking an abundance of pills, and hanging himself with his own belt.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: Right after Jackson is shown in the final stages of hanging himself, the film cuts to Ally singing the line "Why Did You Do That?" from the song of the same title.
  • Unkempt Beauty: In a meta-context, a lot of people were surprised to see Lady Gaga without her trademark exotic make-up. There is a lot of Reality Subtext as Ally's comments about music people not liking her appearance, especially the size of her nose, came directly from things Lady Gaga has said about her own problems with self-esteem. In the context of the movie, Jackson overtly says he loves the way she looks, and is increasingly uncomfortable seeing her putting on a lot of make-up and dying her hair loud colors under pressure from her manager. By the end of the film, after Jackson commits suicide, she has toned it down to a more natural appearance.


Video Example(s):


Gaga Oscar Song

Honest Trailer for "A Star is Born" includes a parody of "Shallow" promoting Lady Gaga's Oscar campaign.

How well does it match the trope?

4.6 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / SongParody

Media sources: