A Star Is Born… But Not at First.
Without a doubt, the latest remake of the movie, A Star is Born, is the best movie I have seen in a long time. Not since the last remake (I wasn't even born yet), but a long time all the same. It did what all good movies should; resonate. Bradley Cooper and Stephani Germanotta sharply lit up the screen in ways one wouldn't have thought possible some time ago. Although the performances were gut-wrenching, throat stifling pieces of epic Oscar-worthy acting, it is not this loosely analysed review which brings me to writing a blog at all. The movie has been done three times previously and follows, more or less, the same storyline, yet it opens our eyes to perhaps the single most important movie moral of our latest generation, 'be yourself first.' A movie literally for the times.
The fact you are reading this blog thinking, 'who the hell is this Stephani Germanotta?' justifies my reason to write this entirely. If ever a movie character typifies the charade Lady Gaga has gallivanted around with the past decade, it'd be this one. Her character, Ally, a broken wanna' be singer with raw talent, losing out to the harsh world of pop-stardom, gets a lucky break. She becomes a highly sought-after performer and songwriter, but not before some heinous critique from those before her. "Nose is far too big", "too ugly" and "not what anybody (in the business) wants" leads the trail of a vicious denunciation. It all makes you stop and think, 'sounds a little familiar, right?' Even for Lady Gaga herself, this speaks volumes of her own journey. Having to create songs like, 'Poker Face' and, 'Just Dance' to break onto the scene; coupling these somewhat trashy fanatical anthems were outrageous, shocking and identity questioning costumes. Empty of the beautiful soul we've now come to know and lacking any real substance, via this route, she found fame. Is this the message we have for those wanting to make it in life, whatever path they choose to follow? Fake it 'til you make it? It's actually despicable.
Katherine Hudson did the same thing after not getting anywhere near where she wanted to be, simply being herself. Toiling for years with nothing but a voice and a message, she just couldn't crack the big time. She ultimately made it, as one Katy Perry, bringing out arguably her biggest and value-misaligned hit, 'I Kissed a Girl', leaping onto the scene as if from nowhere. Poor Miley Cyrus had no chance really, living in the shadows of the mullet her father brought into fashion some thirty years ago. She was sweet, innocent and her values spoke volumes of whom she really wanted to be. With wig in hand, Miley's 'Hannah Montanna' drew the envy of young girls across the globe, but that only lasted until Disney realised she'd be too old to play a twelve-year-old girl anymore. Failings in releasing warm, strong willed and self written songs brought about a rebellion. 'Can't be Tamed' drew attention and Miley's new identity was heavily publicised. Her twerking shenanigans now bring about more conversations and coverage than both her real talent and father's mullet combined. I'm sure she would want to be remembered for other things, amongst other things, perhaps the amazing performer and person she is.
These examples; like so many others, glammed up with ridiculous costumes, raunchy film clips and odd behaviour in the public eye (the star of the blog wearing a mask for the bulk of her appearances as GAGA - clearly taking the early 'aesthetics' criticism to heart); are just sad. I'm not convinced that we, as a society, have come far enough to say we don't need this anymore. We sit and listen to the industry of shame, revealing our biggest stars as creeps, narcissists and predators not minding at all when it generates the next big thing to feast our eyes upon. The #Metoo movement brought about (and still is) a change in mindset for the hardships girls encounter on the road to fame. Never before have we seen a greater need for real strength with our characterisation of girls and boys alike, but are we getting it? The jury is still out.
The last twelve months have seen raunchy, unrealistic and completely inappropriate clips complement top ten hits like never before and one must stop to think who this is affecting most? That's right, our youth! There's even a term used for this type of behviour on social media. Katherine Lindsay, of Refinery 29, wrote about it in disgust. "Why do we still manage to turn on the television to this rot?... teens are now accustomed to 'next level engagement' where it has to be good enough to share with others, get the likes and comments…". The study she conducted found that music videos were shared more commonly (67%) than any other form of video online. So, it's no wonder the stars themselves are pressured to play up to the hype. We cannot blame the stars for their 'sellout'entirely, as 'A Star is Born' itself explores the managerial side of stardom also. These people are forced to push their stars further than ever before, it's all about money, popularity and, most of the time, these new icons have a fixed used by date - being sweet f*#% all. A change of hair colour, some out-there backstory and a clothing range to make Grandma regurgitate her sweets all make up the nasty concoction needed for popularity. Despite the money these superstars make, you have gotta' feel for them. The fact is, they never really get to show who they really are until it's on their own accord; but not before they're too famous for people to really care for why they didn't come out like this originally. It is important to note that this happens for so few. And the, 'fake it 'til you make it' cycle continues.
Let's not get too carried away with poor old Lady Gaga here either, Bradley Cooper hasn't had it easy either in his rise to fame. Having to battle the stigmas of playing the arrogant heart-throb, on films like The Wedding Crashers and The Hangover, with featured roles on Sex and The City would not have been easy. Not easy… but not degrading either. He was lapping up the fame and put on a pedestal, I'm sure his original 'fake it' worked out quite well. The message of this blog is to allow a reflection on what we are seeing unfold with our actors, we are seeing in everyday society. We know the facts of youth mental illness and suicide are alarming, we know the social media's curse with regard to self-esteem, body image and the concern over opinions of others, so let's highlight the strong and pedestal the bold, especially in the world of fame! I watched a scathing, though rousing attack on the males in the movie-making world from Natalie Portman, a girl who has been in the industry since she was eight years old. It got me thinking, how lucky we are to have such successful, yet, grounded, moralistic beings modelling the real way to make an impact on others? But let's not get carried away with negativity here, this blog is trying to highlight something far more glorious than all of this. Being the best version of yourself, first time around.
What A Star is Born teaches us, amongst so many things, is that we yearn for the real, raw emotional vulnerability of life, despite doing everything possible to remove ourselves from the very premise of it. We must be happy with the person we are and the even better person we will be tomorrow. Only let the learning from yesterday improve you, not control you! Ally, Gaga's character, actually fits so well into the life and coming to fame of Stephani Germanotta, if you didn't know the movie was a remake, you'd be forgiven for thinking it was actually based upon Lady Gaga's ride to fame. The inspirational aspect of real life hugely impacts us and this is why A Star is Born works on so many levels. Yes, both actors do an impeccable job, and the set and music superb, but what makes it so powerful is the story's relatability, across 75 years, from back when it was first made. Now and then, we have chauvinism, and we have substance abuse. Now and then, we have stars on the edge of out of control and, perhaps most importantly, we have silence surrounding mental health. Each of the movies, albeit from different eras, end with the lead male taking his own life, a subsequent occurrence from the strain of life. The harsh reality of trying to be something you are not taking its toll. The true beauty of the flick, and what will win it many awards, is the light Ally bestows on such a dark soul, by simply being herself. Not glowing like Beyonce or seductively gross like the Kardashions, just her. In fact, as I assumed comfort in my seat at the cinema, I too even whispered to my wife, 'gee, Gaga is actually not very attractive', oh how the next two hours changed my mind. Her character was so real, Gaga herself, said she was literally crying her eyes out on set at the sensitivity of the script and how she thought it was a screenplay made for her. What a grand message of 'don't judge a book by its cover' or whatever cliché you want to attach to this film but do yourself a favour and go see it! Incredible in every way! And whilst you're at it, try being yourself, first time around.
A Star is Born: 5 / 5 magic hats