A Star Explodes

*** Fair warning: There will be spoilers regarding A Star is Born ***

In the 2018 remake of A Star is Born, Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) discovers Ally (Lady Gaga) and—spoiler alert—turns her into a star. Ally’s rise to stardom is a significant plotline, but the most interesting plotline (to me, at least) is Jackson Maine’s fall.  

Jackson Maine was originally just a poor boy living on a pecan farm with his dad and his brother. But then Jackson made it big time, becoming a rock-and-roll star. He took on the stereotypical rock-and-roll persona by doing the whole party-til-you-drop routine. Just about every night. In fact, when we’re introduced to Jackson, he’s playing a show, drinking a drink, and swallowing a number of pills.

After a brief blackout, we catch up with Jackson at a local drag bar, where he watches Ally belt out an inspired performance of La Vie en rose—a French song. And that’s when Ally’s stardom really takes off.

Ally hesitantly accepts a place on stage beside Jackson. Then Ally reluctantly falls for Jackson. Then Ally happily tours with Jackson, honing her singing and songwriting skills along the way. Which all leads to Ally being discovered by a big time music mogul, whom offers to take Ally on her own tour and produce her own album.

At this point, Ally’s star is officially rising, and Jackson’s star is officially fading. But we don’t really know it yet.

Jackson is still drinking, smoking, and doing drugs til he drops. But he hasn’t been doing it as often with Ally. Jackson is still rocking, rolling, and performing shows with his band. But he has also been helping Ally with her own career, supporting her (almost) every step of the way.

Heck, even after Jackson becomes jealous of Ally, disagrees with her image and music, and literally pisses himself on stage at the Grammy’s because he’s too messed up, it still doesn’t feel like Jackson’s star has faded just yet. (Previously, when Jackson got too messed up and disappeared for a night, causing Ally to frantically chase after him after one of her shows, Jackson and Ally reconciled by getting engaged and married. So the Grammy incident to me felt like another bump in the road—not the end of the road.)

Jackson goes to rehab, talks about his childhood, and admits he had attempted suicide when he was a teenager. Jackson then completes his rehab, goes back home, and is told by Ally that she’ll support him.

At this point, everything still seems okay. There still is hope.

But then Jackson has a grave conversation with Ally’s producer/manager about the damage that Jackson’s pissing on stage at the Grammy’s had caused. Afterwards, Jackson gets into his car, swallows a number of pills, and, instead of attending Ally’s show where he’s supposed to perform on stage with her, he chooses to commit suicide.

What’s interesting about Jackson’s tragic death is what spurred his decision to end it all. And, correspondingly, what did not spur his decision. For instance, I don’t think Jackson committed suicide because of the incident at the Grammy’s, or his stint in rehab, or his addiction to drugs and alcohol, or the fact that Ally had become a bigger star than him.

No, I think it was the effect the incident at the Grammy’s, his stint in rehab, and his addiction to drugs and alcohol had had on Ally.

It was the fact that Jackson was now viewed as a liability to Ally’s career. Not the genesis.

Perhaps, then, Jackson’s tragic death can be viewed as an act of love. Setting Ally free from his self-destructive ways.

Or maybe, as Ally’s tribute suggests, it was nothing but a tragedy. Taking away Ally’s one and only love.

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