Stop right here if you haven't seen A Star Is Born, because there are major spoilers
We're about to take a deep dive into the 2018 remake, directed by and starring Bradley Cooper,
featuring a star turn from Lady Gaga.
Let's break down the ending, and analyze the new movie's connections to older versions
of this classic Hollywood tale.
In previous versions of A Star Is Born, the male lead succumbs not necessarily to his
addictions, but rather to his envy of his paramour.
In the 1937 and 1954 versions, the character of Norman Maine chooses to end his life by
walking out into the ocean, a poetic end for an artist at the end of his rope.
In the 1976 version of the story, the character dies in a reckless car accident.
In the 2018 version, Jackson and Ally work out their jealousy problems, which almost
makes you think that this time might be different.
Unlike the 1976 version, where the budding starlet catches the older musician in bed
with another woman, the new film never casts Jackson as a cheater.
It makes him out to be a better guy in general, portraying him as someone who's self-medicating
to cope with both a traumatic childhood and his development of tinnitus, a condition which
hinders his career.
Cooper's version underscores his character's deep personal problems.
As he said in an interview with FilmStruck, the scene at the Grammy Awards was one of
the first scenes he thought of when making the movie.
According to Cooper, Jack doesn't want to hijack Ally's speech out of malice.
He's trying to come from a place of support, and his demons just won't let him.
If you're unfamiliar with the Star Is Born story, you may have missed some subtle clues
about Jackson's fate.
In the beginning of the movie, he drops Ally off at home and tells her...
"Hey, I just want to take another look at you."
That line was inspired by past versions of the movie.
But in those versions, it's the last thing the musician says to his lover before he dies.
A exit-by-hanging is also foreshadowed when Jackson speaks to a counselor, revealing that
he once tried to hang himself from a ceiling fan when he was younger.
He only failed because the fan crashed down.
In another scene at the beginning of the movie, his car passes by a billboard covered in nooses,
as good a visual indicator as any that offing himself is on the musician's mind.
Ally's manager, Rez, tells a fresh-out-of-rehab Jackson that his personal problems will make
him nothing but a hindrance to his wife's career.
Rez also tells Jackson in no uncertain terms that he will relapse again.
When Rez refuses to let Ally take Jackson on tour with her, she cancels the whole thing,
but she doesn't tell Jackson why she bailed on her performances.
She doesn't know that Jackson already knows the real reason.
Essentially, Rez unwittingly creates a self-fulfilling prophecy when Jackson's guilt over the canceled
tour triggers the relapse that ends his life.
In the 2018 film, Jackson says he took his father's voice – a line Bradley Cooper says
was inspired by a line in Bruce Springsteen's autobiography.
Jackson reveals early in the movie that he was orphaned at a young age, so his older
brother, Bobby raises him.
Shortly before ending his life, Jackson apologizes to Bobby for their decades-long problems,
blaming the sorry state of their relationship on himself and his addictions.
He also tells Bobby that he took his voice, acknowledging that Bobby is the only father
figure he recognizes.
Interestingly, Cooper really did take Elliott's voice in real life, pretty much literally.
Cooper developed his character's Elliott-inspired vocal performance before Elliott was signed
on for the movie.
When Cooper went to recruit Elliott for the project, he demonstrated some of his character
work, essentially parroting Elliott's voice right back to him.
"Made me laugh to beat the band.
Elliott later said, "I didn't have any tips at all, he already had it down."
"We spent, you know, months and months, working on that voice.
I think I lowered it like, almost an octave."
Tip of the hat
In the final scene of A Star Is Born, Ally introduces herself as "Ally Maine," using
Jackson's last name in public for the first time.
In another obvious homage to her late love, she sings a song he wrote for her, titled
"I'll Never Love Again."
But that wasn't the only way she honored Jackson in the film's heart-wrenching closer.
Earlier in the movie, Jackson argues with Ally about the lack of authenticity in her
pop records and image, including her orange hair, which was largely influenced by Rez
and her label.
In the film's final scene, Ally's hair is brown, with her style finally hewing closer
to her authentic self.
Me through you
In the 1954 version of A Star Is Born, Judy Garland's Esther introduces herself as "Mrs.
Norman Maine" in her final scene after Norman's passing.
It's the same ending from the 1937 original, and the 2018 remake keeps the tradition going
by recreating the 1954 film's closing scene almost shot for shot.
Lady Gaga's Ally even takes the same stage at the Shrine Auditorium that Esther did for
her tribute performance.
Ally's tribute song also evokes the 1976 version, in which Barbra Streisand's Esther performs
her own song written by her late husband.
In this way, their husbands' legacies live on through the success of their true loves.
End of the beginning
The final shot of the film, in which the camera lingers on Ally Maine singing on stage alone,
is what Cooper has called "the moment a star is born."
In an interview with CinemaBlend, he said,
"Ally at the end of the movie is just starting.
What's she going to create is going to be even bigger than what we've seen prior."
Gaga has said that she rarely saw playback of the movie while it was being filmed, with
the exception of this final scene, when she was directed to look right at the camera.
Cooper knew then that it would be the last frame of the film, and Gaga could see why.
According to the star, the "brilliant" final moments are so memorable because they show
"the human courage to persevere and to move forward."
It's a powerful theme, and timeless too, a good reason why they keep remaking this movie.