Dear Princess ‘Ishka,
A Star is Born by Bradley Cooper is a good movie with a remarkable original soundtrack. Lady Gaga interprets Ally, an emerging singer, whereas Cooper is Jack, an alcoholic Rockstar in slow but irreversible decline. I am no movie expert, but I am quite confident that, let alone for a couple of cumbersome and superfluous appearances toward the beginning and the lack of any intention to produce a groundbreaking movie, the acting is consistent and credible and the messages are well delivered.
Despite being a remake of an old classic, Cooper’s A Star is Born seems to capture a cultural shift that has taken place in the last couple of decades. The ruinous descent of an old model of Rockstar, devoted to drug and alcohol abuse, and the rise of the hard working, sober and otherwise quite ordinary, ‘new Rockstar’. The artistic contrast between Jack and Ally is interestingly framed by their love story, adding a tragic element to a simple but overall nontrivial narration.
Jack belongs to the past. The greedy discography, the mediatic eye, the world of tv shows and fancy award ceremonies do not need him anymore: they now have more reliable and controllable stars to drain the light from. It is also because of this idea in the movie, that Ally is not truly Lady Gaga. Ally is no Mother Monster, she is no game changer, she is never over the top. She is talented but not revolutionary, she is an artist but she is detached from the business around her. All she wants to do is to sing and write her own music, she never embodies the ‘Fame Monster’.
On the other hand, however, Ally uncovers a character that I like to imagine as the ‘backstage side’ of Lady Gaga. A strong woman, artistically born among drag queens, in the supportive environment of gay bars and underground lgbt culture. A woman with a big nose and a self-conscious female body. A woman whose self-confidence wasn’t warranted, but had to be fought for. All I could think about while watching the movie was how stunning she was. Who? Ally? Lady Gaga? Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta?
I don’t know. But Lady Gaga is that woman, who was constantly exposed to body-shaming, who was made object of transphobic slurs, whose talent and artistic genius was questioned on a daily base because of her extravagance, and whose success was analyzed through the lenses of conspiracy theories. Despite the many reminders and how clichés it might sound, people too often forget that behind the fame, the artistic persona, the million views, there is a vulnerable human being.
A Star is Born is a movie about the cultivation of one’s own talent, of one’s own relationships, of one’s own body. Against the decadent gods of the past, perfect no matter how broke, stoned, wasted or morally depraved, the newborn star has an uncommon artistic personality in a common body. She is called ugly, she couldn’t be further from perfection, she is no man. But her voice is stronger than any god’s voice, because there is not only limitless potential in her, there is also the will to grow and to refer only to one’s own standards, without ever losing track of one’s artistic mission. Without ever thinking to be too good, without ever being too broken inside to drown everything in alcohol, but coping with her inner pain, trying to solve her problems and generating art in the process.
Is this Ally or Lady Gaga now that I am talking about? I think that Ally is just the newborn star, open for any possibility in her future, and particularly vulnerable to exploitations. Lady Gaga, on the other hand, is a real-life legend.