“A Star is Born” is a Lost Opportunity

astarisborn-screenshot

I really wanted to like Star is Born, but I could not help feeling really disappointed by it.

(Note: This post contains plot and ending spoilers)

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Lady Gaga. I’ve been a devout fan for 10 years. She has inspired me greatly and her music has helped me out of dark places in different times of my life.

I knew her acting would be superb – without a doubt. When I started to read more about Bradley Cooper and his creative process, I felt his acting and vision would be in line with an artistic perspective that would not be matched by any of the current mainstream filmmakers.

All of this was apparent when I finally watched this film.

However, I don’t know if it because the plot line hit too close to home, or if I take valid issue with how recovery was portrayed, but it wasn’t fair to either the characters or the actors really.

I feel you can tell it is made by someone who had experience with addiction themselves…but not with, well, the aftermath of what happens at the end.

What also got to me though is that we hardly get a glimpse into Ally’s world, which upsets me because she is just as much as an integral part of the movie as Jack is.

How many of us have been Ally in our own lives, with our narrative, feelings and point of view pushed out of the picture in favor of the addict? And how many of us succumb to bad behaviors as a result, and possibly addiction ourselves?

How many of us are yearning for our stories to be told, instead of the focus being on the “dark (but messy AF) prince”?

That is the story I wanted to see, but I suppose I had to settle for…well.. the Shallowwww, the Shallooww now…the soundtrack is really good, though.

*Getting to the spoiler part now + triggers about addiction/death*

Jack’s view about what his death would mean for her is so very wrong. In life, we don’t get to correct this wrong: the ending is very final.

In the form of art, this could have been a moment to show how wrong this thinking truly is, or this would be an opportunity to show the long terms effects of survivors of suicide by showing how she coped with it.

“If I were gone then my loved one will be better off.”

This is the hazy thinking someone has during suicide ideation. This is the idea that kills people, it is very likely many of the 800,000 people that kill themselves every year have this component as part of their ideation.

But in the larger reality, I feel I can say from experience, it does not work this way.

You can say there certain aspects to it that can seem to be true in the general abstract ideas: the person does not have to help the seemingly hopeless addict, they can live on and “not have to worry” about this person anymore and they can thrive with the absence of a burden.

However, that is all within the confines that it does NOT get better, that recovery is NOT possible and thus it is part of the illusion that occurs as someone contemplates suicide.

It also completely discards the long term painful traumatic PTSD survivor has in the aftermath of losing their loved one to suicide, and how far off these illusions are from reality.

There is a very real suicide contagion– those who have lost a loved one to suicide are more likely to die the same way (especially if it was a parent).

Note: If you need someone to talk to, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is open 24 hours 1-800-273-8255. 

So let’s go into how the movie portrays why he did it.

It is presumed that he died by suicide because he saw evidence that her love for him was getting in the way of her potential and career.

Since he admitted he was an addict and he was in a supposed “rehab”- I saw three things in particular that stood out as odd:

  1. In the real world of A.A. or 12 Step meetings- you are NOT chastised for being late to meetings – you are surrounded by other alcoholics, in most settings everyone knows “how it goes” –  especially if it is your first meeting.
  2.  Who writes only Steps 1-4 on a whiteboard? (Just saying.)
  3. What kind of medical professional would laugh at a clients’ recounting of a suicide attempt?

Based on the story itself, he had the money to buy good treatment and a certified medical professional, he would have been given a treatment plan outlining what steps to take with his relationships and career based on him being an alcoholic.

This would have been shared his wife and brother, or some sort of exercises would have been done to sort it out- whether it was followed through on or not- it would be presented at some point before leaving the treatment center (An article in USA Today also highlights these points.)

Perhaps he also would have been connected to a sponsor since he, presumably, was going through the steps. It just seems very much like he never sought treatment at all, which is clearly not the case.

Although that happens frequently, very frequently and it should be “out there” how often this happens, but in this case it would make sense to do way with the whole rehab part of the story altogether because it simply leaves way too many holes in the narrative.

So let’s go into why it was justified that he couldn’t go on tour, how the manager was right that it wasn’t the right thing but his reasons were off,  how treatment could have filled in those gaps for someone in early recovery.

He couldn’t join her on tour because:

– He is an addict in early recovery and needs to focus on getting better.

– She needs to achieve fame on her own terms, and he needs to stand back as support – this is part of his recovery from alcoholic aspects of his personality as well.

– His career has been mostly built on his alcoholism and his addictive tendencies, and he needs to step back from places and/or environments that could trigger a relapse, in part due to the drinking culture of being on tour.

If we wanted to portray addiction in a way that changes and disrupts the usual narrative, these points would be made clear and evident –  instead, it conveys a message that he is a hopeless addict who will ultimately bring her down, which I mentioned earlier, is part of the hazy thinking of suicide ideation.

Between the narrative of Jack’s addiction and the missing pieces of Ally’s backstory as well as her survival in the aftermath- it is lost opportunity to do better, to have a realistic conversation and portrayal of addiction and suicide.

Instead, it turned out to be a very cliched and quite frankly outdated story line in our times of extraordinary knowledge on the lived experiences of others in these situations.

Perhaps, this is an opportunity for creatives who are in recovery and/or survivors of suicide, particularly those who identify as women, to change this narrative: what do you think?

 

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