A Star Is Born was released several weeks ago, but I didn’t see it right away. Based on the trailer and multiple interviews with both stars, envisioning music icon Lady Gaga as a singer wasn’t a stretch, despite this being her first leading role. I was not convinced, however, that Bradley Cooper – multiple Academy Award nominations notwithstanding – could pull off the singer-songwriter part.
I was wrong.
Cooper’s country rock star persona was completely credible. But I was most impressed with his portrayal of unrelenting, alcohol-induced self-destruction. Credit to his acting acumen, no doubt. But he was also able to draw upon his own experience with – and ultimate recovery from – long-time alcohol use disorder (AUD).
As a director, Cooper accurately depicted what I hope all audience members will appreciate – and that very few Hollywood films acknowledge – which is Jackson Maine’s addiction was a chronic brain disorder. He was a slave to his disease. He could not function without drinking immediately before and after each show. At the height of his illness – and the event that prompted entry to rehab – Jackson, delirious from alcohol and pills, stumbled on stage during the pinnacle of his wife’s fledgling singing career (her Grammy acceptance speech), stammered incoherently and ultimately urinated himself. Later in rehab, his sobbing face covered by his hands, riddled with guilt, Jackson could barely face his wife.