I wrote my review on A Star is Born (2018). After I did my first draft of the critique, I took the dog for a walk to contemplate my review. I gave the movie a 3 out of 5 but this score was lower than others critics. I don’t usually read other critics until after I have posted my review, but when my score differs from Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic, I need time to ponder if there are aspects to the movie I missed. The walk was time for me to reconcile my rating with that of critics. In the end my score is valid.
The score was purely technical review of the film, but there was something about the movie that was disturbing me. During my walk one item I had to reconcile was A Star is Born a love story that I didn’t like or did I have an unconscious bias against love stores. I thought about movies like Good Will Hunting or Fault in Our Stars that are love stories, that I would rate highly. My conclusion was I didn’t have an unconscious bias and there are elements to A Star is Born that aren’t good.
Then it struck me. Movies contain parables. Films even when they are just pure entertainment but communicate simple morale or truths. They become stories of how we expect each other to react and interact with each other. A Star is Born (2018) has parables that belong in the 1930’s, not in 2018’s. Because of the dated parables, I am surprised by the warm reception to A Star is Born.
Let’s start with the male character, Jack. Jack is a white successful male and the hero of our story (Ally being the heroine). As the hero, he is the character we would want to emulate.
His first exchange with Ally in the dressing room, he wants to take off her fake eye-brow. I saw some review that interpreted this as flirting. I was creeped out as he reached out to here. Now he did ask first, but as he asked, he felt like he was leaning in and invading her personal space. He was a creepy drunk hitting on her by being handsy.
How in a day and age where the truth comes out about a Harvey Weinstein and others do we let a scene like this be written, shot and edited to the final movie. Any drunk man in a position of authority (in this case his authority comes through fame and fortune) that approaches any female in this way is basically a sexual predator.
Parable for Woman: Let the drunk white male touch, it may lead to love and success.
Later, when she is attending one of his shows, he brings her on to stage. The scene is meant to show how he cares for her. Is it really caring to coerce someone into an awkward position? She had been on stage before, albeit smaller audience, so we know she could perform and perform well. Not letting her have time to prepare and adjust is disrespectful.
Parable for Men: It is okay for a man to put woman into uncomfortable situations, because me make women grow. Woman need a man to make them grow.
Ally joins the show, and starts singing. Not once does the movie explore any coaching he gives her on music or the music business. Not once does he try to help her get an agent or does he ask her to co-write songs together, and share in the profits. Nothing like that ever occurs. Even in mentor/mentee relationship this would have been the minimum expectation.
Never did you see her talk to him about doing more with the band, or wanting her own career. She was happy being the 2nd fiddle until someone approaches her. Even when someone approaches her, it is another white male.
Parable for Men: It is okay to exploit the women who love us, and keep them in the wings.
Parable for Woman: Support your man in his career and only seek your own career when asked by heterosexual white male.
Then when Ally talks to Jack about getting her own music deal. Jack’s answer is, well he really doesn’t respond, sex and more drinking is his response. Jack could have helped Ally, coached Ally, or at least provided verbal support.
Parable for Men: Avoid dealing with issues especially about a woman’s career, because your are the king, and those problems will go away, If they don’t go away then drink them away.
Parable for Woman: You are lucky to have a man.
Ally travels to Memphis to get Jack after his drinking binge playing a soul sucking corporate job. She lays down the law, that she won’t come get him again. In a rare moment of sobriety, he fashions a make shift ring out of a guitar string and proposes. She accepts his marriage proposal. Not only does she accept the proposal, but takes a man’s suggestion to get married the same day, without any friends and family.
Parable for Men: If you screw up, just entrap the woman. Doesn’t really matter if you are in love. Don’t think, just jump in! That is romance. No matter what you do, don’t apologize and don’t change, you’re the man.
Parable for Woman: Just listen to what the man has to say, and do it.
Then, when the when her manager starts putting Ally with dancers and changing her appearance. Ally wasn’t strong enough to say what type of performer envisioned for herself. The movie failed to articulate her vision. I never understood if she wanted riches or wanted to make music.
Parable for Men: Woman should trust you, because they need you to make them successful.
Parable for Women: Do what ever the men tell you sweetie.
While there are more, let’s jump to the end. Jack is playing at the Grammy’s but isn’t the focal point of a tribute. Ally is nominated for several Grammy’s. Basically Ally is now more successful than Jack. Before the Grammy’s, Jack gets stoned and drunk and embarrasses Ally on stage. In doing so, he damages her career.
From this the lesson is simple, If we can’t be more successful than our wife then that is bad, and we should use alcohol and drugs to solve the problem. Then when we realize we messed up, and she must sacrifice to help you, which is embarrassing, then we should kill ourselves.
Parable for Men: If you can’t be a man, then kill yourself.
Parable for Woman: If you had just stayed behind the man, then we would all live happily ever after.
I don’t want the young women of today to take anything away from this movie other than it is a parable of what not be as a woman and what not to find in a partner. Think about the story of Romeo and Juliet, which was written in 1597, Juliet was by far a stronger female character than Ally.
Love is probably one of the most talked about phenomena in the world, yet to each person and each couple it is different. If you used this movie to identify the traits of love, it would be having the same passion (music), gazing at each other all the time and constantly drinking. Love is a mix of different attributes, common interests, passions, but also understanding, partnering, tenderness, friendship, loyalty, compassion, and sacrifice. Their love is obsessive that only remains while there is a balance to them, but their true priority is themselves.
Neither of them are willing to sacrifice everything for the other. Oh, you might say Ally was willing to sacrifice a little for Jack, but it wasn’t like she dropped everything. They had more than enough money. If she really cared for him, then they both would have just stayed home from the Grammys. She loved herself more than she really loved him.
I didn’t mean to pick on only the female character, Jack was so self-absorbed, outside of having her perform on his stage, he really didn’t do anything for her. He could have told her to go, and he will move to Memphis for a while and hang with his buddy to get better while writing music. Let’s bring all the attention back to me, and I will commit suicide. He was also selfish in killing himself.
As the great coach Tom Landry said, there are 3 things in life, faith, family and football. These people believed in football, drinking and then family. Now will rationalize their priorities because they are in the music business. I believe that is hogwash…I constantly see musicians that make a choice.
My wife and I have been married now for 25 years, and we have both made sacrifices for the other. Love isn’t selfish or one sided. Love is a discussion and understanding of where we are together as a couple, as a family. A Star is Born is not a love story, love is a story about two people who were passionate about each but couldn’t turn that passion into a true sustaining love, and weren’t willing to do what it takes. In then end, they really only loved themselves.
Parable: It is all about me and should always about me, and love is secondary.
This movie has been done 3 times before in decades that weren’t as progressive as we are now, or at least we think we are. The plot hasn’t changed, it is still a white male coming to the heroic aid of the white female. I was struck by the fact it couldn’t have been interracial or even not-white. Further, why is it a female star being born, why couldn’t they have turned the tables? Why is it heterosexual couple?
Parable: White heterosexual men rule.
Ally never once really tried to help Jack with his drinking and drug problem. She enabled the problem. So big surprise when he went too far. Even after he checks into a rehab and he comes out, her support of him seems minimal.
Not only that, but the movie seemed to encourage drinking. She had shot of alcohol before she went on stage for the second time. Really the drinking and drug use was okay, until Jack embarrassed her on stage.
Parable: Don’t intervene with an alcoholic/drug addict. Wait until they get too far before seeking help. Remember it is their job to get better, don’t sacrifice anything for them (especially when your white male manager is telling you to go make him some money).
It is very hard to describe how disappointed I am in this story. I hope that our youth won’t take away the parables underlying this story. From the number of glowing reviews of this film I know it is already too late.
While I gave A Star is Born a 3 stars from a purely technical aspect. As a moral tale this story is truly terrifying and my personal rating is 1/2 star. When you have a star like Bradley Cooper and another star in Lady Gaga who are so successful, that they could have taken the chance to make a tale for our time.