Erin Gannon ’19
In the modern age of endless Hollywood remakes and franchises that have no end in sight, Bradley Cooper’s A Star is Born brilliantly brands itself as distinct from these categories, virtually nothing about how the film was marketed would lead audiences to realize that it is actually the fourth iteration of a film that first premiered in 1937. Marking Cooper’s directorial debut, the 2018 version has been the subject of massive internet attention and awards-season buzz since its premiere back in October. Just four short months later, A Star is Born is making its way to Cinestudio.
Ending a roughly forty-year remake hiatus, 2018’s A Star is Born revives a film that has been adapted over and over again to provide cultural commentary during pivotal moments in American history. The original film starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March premiered in 1937, just prior to the end of the Great Depression. The second version, now a musical, starring Judy Garland and James Mason, was released in 1954, during the post-World War II economic boom. The third, starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, came out at the height of the women’s movement in 1976. The latest version, starring Lady Gaga and Cooper himself, joins in on cultural conversations at a time where political tensions are more strained than entire generations have ever known before.
Though cultural context has changed with each re-release, the basic premise of the plot has remained – Jackson Maine, a successful musician, has met the talented-but-undiscovered Ally and takes her under his wing, helping her career to grow and eventually overshadow his own. The two fall in love, but their relationship is strained by an unwelcome and persistent third party – Jackson’s alcoholism. The couple must not only reconcile the differences in their career successes, but also cope with Jackson’s increasingly hazardous, drunken self-destruction. The result is a harrowing look at the intersections of notoriety, status, and substance abuse.
This A Star is Born reframes questions of stardom and public perception in the digital age, where celebrities are no longer alone in worrying about self-image. But, unlike its predecessors, as we follow Ally’s rise from rags to riches, we also watch Jackson’s career succumb to inevitable irrelevancy. A Star is Born was a fitting title for the story’s earlier versions, when Gaynor, Garland, and Streisand were unmistakably the protagonists. Now, with the emphasis on Cooper’s character as well as Gaga’s, a more apt title might reference a star burning out.
The 2018 rendition is a cinematic achievement in many regards, but the emotional weight of the film’s plot is without a doubt carried by a brilliant performance by Lady Gaga. Despite a surprising loss at the Golden Globes to Glenn Close, Gaga’s performance is now nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, despite the part being her first major role in a feature film. In addition to Gaga’s nomination, A Star is Born also secured six other Oscar nods, including Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role (Cooper), Supporting Actor (Sam Elliott), Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Original Song, and Sound Mixing.
A Star is Born is scheduled for two showings at Cinestudio on Feb. 8 and 9.