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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A Star Is Born is the fourth big-screen take on a tragic love story centered around the pitfalls of substance abuse and show business. Starring Bradley Cooper (making his directorial debut) as a stadium-filling rock star and Lady Gaga as the struggling singer he discovers and falls for, this version, like its predecessors, revolves around alcoholism and addiction, so there's lots of drinking and drug use, often to excess. You can also expect strong language in nearly every scene, particularly "f--k" and "s--t." This mature romance has lots of kissing, several love scenes, and a couple instances of partial nudity, both in sexual and nonsexual contexts. And while the movie has messages about the importance of art and letting your voice be heard, it also explores heavy themes, including mental health, substance abuse, depression, suicidal thoughts, and more.
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What's the story?
A STAR IS BORN -- actor Bradley Cooper's directorial debut -- is another take on the tragic love story that was previously turned into movies in 1937, 1954, and 1976. It tells the story of a musician who falls in love with a talented singer, only to see her fame take off -- and surpass -- his own. Cooper, who also co-wrote the adaptation, stars as Jackson Maine, a hard-drinking, Eddie Vedder-meets-Neil Young-type who discovers Ally (Lady Gaga) while she performs at a drag bar and is instantly mesmerized by her talent. The two connect both personally and professionally, and soon Ally is writing, touring, and performing with Jackson, who turns over the stage to her and offers support as she launches her solo career. But as Ally's star begins to rise, Jackson's substance abuse and personal demons overwhelm him, threatening his stability and her dreams.
Is it any good?
Cooper's passionate, thoughtful directorial debut is beautifully acted and fabulously shot, making it the best cinematic version to date of this heartbreaking story. It's obvious how immersed in the role Cooper became; his research and commitment to his role -- and to the movie as a whole -- are breathtaking. And in Lady Gaga, he found the perfect co-star to play Ally, a struggling singer with a big voice and a lot to say, but not enough confidence to say it. Cooper and Gaga's chemistry is palpable, and their characters' romance is utterly riveting and realistic. Working from a script he co-wrote with veterans Will Fetters and Eric Roth, Cooper directs the movie to showcase the performances, but also the sensory aspects of fame: the overload of applause and adoration followed by moments of silence and isolation.
The movie's music is fabulous, and it's impressive how well Cooper can hold his own while singing with Lady Gaga. We already knew that she could act, but that Cooper can sing is a revelation. There are many memorable songs, but "Shallow" and "I'll Never Love Again" are particularly powerful and emotional. The music evokes the highs and lows of Jackson and Ally's relationship, and it reveals the difficulty of staying true to your artistic voice in an era when everything -- even a marriage -- can be reduced to marketability. In addition to Gaga, Cooper has rounded up an impressive supporting cast, including Sam Elliott as Jackson's older brother/tour manager, Bobby; Andrew Dice Clay as Ally's proud working-class father; and Dave Chappelle and Hamilton star Anthony Ramos as old friends. There's not a false note in this ultimately heartbreaking remake, and it sets the bar remarkably high for Cooper's continuing career as a director.
Talk to your kids about ...
Does watching this movie make you interested in seeing any of the previous versions of the story? Why do you think so many filmmakers in different eras have wanted to revisit this plot?
Jackson believes that music should mean something and is critical of some of the superficial pop songs Ally sings once her career takes off. What do you think? Does all music have to be deep or meaningful?
What motivated Jackson's self-destructive decisions? Were you surprised by the ending, or did you pick up on the foreshadowing?
What is the movie saying about the music business? About fame in general?
- In theaters: October 5, 2018
- Cast: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott
- Director: Bradley Cooper
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Music and Sing-Along
- Character Strengths: Compassion
- Run time: 135 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language throughout, some sexuality/nudity and substance abuse
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