Jackson recognizes Ally’s talent, one that’s been ignored because every time she’s met with a record label, she’s been told that she doesn’t look the part of a bankable female singer. Eventually, he pulls her onstage at one of his concerts to sing a song of hers that he’s arranged.
This is the scene that you’ve seen in the trailers and all the commercials and might be getting pretty sick of. In what is a very solid movie, it’s a soaring scene. It’s beautifully shot (Cooper directed and co-wrote the script), creating an intimacy that genuinely gives you goose bumps.
Video of Ally’s debut immediately goes viral — an element not present in the 1976, 1954 or 1937 versions of “A Star Is Born” — and so begins her meteoric rise to fame and fortune, a path all paved with false eyelashes and glitter.
When Ally starts to change how she performs, switching her hair color like her record label wants and wearing sequins like her record label wants and using backup dancers like her record label wants, Jackson sniffs at the compromises she’s making to achieve success. Sometimes he has a point: Ally goes from writing lyrics like “I’m off the deep end/ watch as I dive in/ I’ll never meet the ground” to ones like “Why you keep on texting me like that?” Most of the time, though, he’s just showing his own ignorance about how the music business works.
It’s nice that Jackson managed to make it big without sacrificing too much of his art. The thing is, he probably wasn’t ever asked to. He never had to fit into an idea of what a male superstar should be. It helps that Jackson looks like Bradley Cooper, but Jackson could be a lot uglier and still be just as successful. Beyond that, no matter how cute Jackson is, he probably has the hair color he was born with. He probably never had any choreography rehearsals. There are probably no Spanx in his dresser drawers.
Jackson sees the music world in one dimension: You’re either true to yourself or you’re not. Which is very nice for him. He’s so stuck in the mindset of “Why would she DO this?” that he can’t take a step back and ask himself, “Why WOULD she do this?” He simply can’t see that Ally’s place in the music business has a different shape than his. It’s flashier. It’s meaner. And, in all probability, it won’t last as long.
“A Star Is Born” doesn’t judge Jackson for responding to Ally’s fame the way he does; his reaction to her success is complicated, to the movie’s credit. While he cycles between pride, jealousy and anger, his one constant, underlying emotion is confusion as to why she’s doing things that he wouldn’t do because he didn’t have to.
More Reelists from Kristen Page-Kirby