Romance films are always a go-to, whether you are looking for some light entertainment with your partner, a way to warm your heart and get a bit teary, or just provide some background noise. But the issue is, which do you choose? Well, one you can definitely take off your watchlist is A Star is Born. Starring Lady Gaga as singer-songwriter Ally and the film’s director/co-writer Bradley Cooper as rockstar Jackson Maine, this 136-minute film depicts the definition of a ‘Bad Romance’.
Though its release gained great public attention and Oscar buzz, and no one can deny that ‘Shallow’ is an absolute banger, A Star is Born doesn’t quite hit the mark. As the fourth version of this particular story, the whole thing seems a little unnecessary. Heavily drawing on the ’70s film, starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, some of the themes are naturally outdated. Despite attempts to modernise the narrative through drag queens and modern technology, the story of an alcoholic man helping a female protégé to fame feels a little old-school. Jackson also seems to have a weird obsession with Ally’s nose, which is frankly just a bit odd.
Of course, with a narrative portraying addiction and the struggles of fame, A Star is Born could never be a ‘fun’ film. This isn’t a romantic comedy. The worst aspect of this film, though, isn’t its lack of humour or outdated narrative, but rather the toxic relationship that Jackson and Ally share – and how suicide is portrayed. Though many raved about the accurate depiction of alcoholism and mental health issues, Jackson’s insane jealousy and tendency to ruin Ally’s success (e.g. when he pisses his pants at an awards show), as well as his constant blaming her for his problems, is not a relationship dynamic that we should be preaching. Glorifying this ‘romance’ undermines real abusive and toxic relationships, with the film almost praising Ally for sticking by Jack even though leaving him would have benefitted her own wellbeing.
The scene in which Jackson commits suicide is portrayed as a sacrifice that he is taking in order to free Ally. After spiralling back into alcoholism, snorting crushed pills pre-show, and publicly embarrassing himself and Ally, this is the only option left in his mind. We must remember he is mentally ill, meaning many of the decisions he makes are not rational, but the film does not make this clear enough. Instead, what audiences get is an ending where Jackson is the hero for taking his own life to benefit Ally.
Not only is this a bad message to send out to people struggling with mental illness, encouraging the idea that suicide may be what is best for their loved ones (which many already believe), it also suggests that Ally was somehow meant to save this man from the abyss. This blames the family and friends of suicide victims, suggesting that they could have done more. A Star is Born should be considered a tragedy, not a romance. It promotes dangerous messages, has an outdated narrative, and simply isn’t a worthwhile watch.
A Star is Born (2018), directed by Bradley Cooper, was distributed in the UK by Warner Bros Entertainment, certificate 15. Watch the trailer below: