Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 50 of a series dealing with Alcoholism and Addiction from a Mystical, Mythological Perspective, reflecting Bob’s scholarly work as a Ph.D. in mythological studies.
The 2018 film, A Star is Born, is the fourth remake of an original 1937 film about an aging star and a young new prodigy. This one stars Bradley Cooper as Jackson Maine, a famous C& W singer, and Lady Gaga, as Ally, a struggling lounge singer whom Jackson takes to stardom. The story is impeccably done by Cooper and Gaga; its power is in the truly profound impact it seems to have on many of us in recovery. This recent version also tracks almost precisely with two prior ones, a 1954 version with Judy Garland and James Mason, and a 1976 version with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson.
In this version, Jackson is a serious alcoholic and addict who stumbles into a back-street drag bar, desperately needing a drink between gigs; he finds Ally as a waitress who also sings in the small club venue. The connection, both in the acting and in the energy Cooper and Gaga bring to the roles, is mesmerizing. Predictably, and in line with its predecessors, they form a bond and perform together. The bond leads to an affair of the heart. Soon Ally’s career begins to take off while Jackson’s is continuing a drunken downward spiral.
While Ally remains fully committed to Jackson, he becomes a major liability to her career. He vacillates between loving attention to her and mean-spirited comments and abuse. Her manager does everything he can to try to keep Jackson away from Ally in various phases of her development and touring. But Jackson’s drinking and drugging just keeps getting worse. At the Grammy’s, when Ally goes up to accept the Award of Best New Artist, a falling down drunk Jackson goes up with her and, on stage, he wets himself and passes out.
Jackson does rehab and seems to be recovering, but the damage he believes he has done to Ally’s career and the constant pull of the disease lead him to a deep state of remorse and regret. While Ally is singing at a major concert at which Jackson was to be present, he hangs himself in their garage.
It is interesting that this story seems to have a basic fundamental power…it has been told and retold in the span of generations over the last 80 years…with the players having the same general presence in their generations as Gaga and Cooper do here. While, to this alcoholic, the option of suicide is never a valid one, there are untold examples where the bottom reached in a drinking life seems to present no other recourse to the sufferer. It is a sad, sad, tragic reality.
How wonderful it is that many of us have been able to move beyond that point of “pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization” and put the probability of such a tragedy well behind us.