November 17, 2018

"A Star Is Born" Isn't Sexist

“It’s a press-circuit anecdote that has already passed into legend: when Lady Gaga screen-tested for the role of Ally in Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born, the actor/director handed her a makeup wipe and instructed her to remove her maquillage. He wanted to see her authentically: “Completely open,” he said. “No artifice.”

That tale emerged from a Los Angeles Times feature that launched a thousand tiresome think-pieces – sample headline: “Why do men get to decide what’s real about us?” – but in many ways it speaks to the central concern of both A Star Is Born and the critical reaction to it: what is “authentic”, in music and popular culture, in 2018?

Like many, I emerged from my screening of A Star Is Born utterly rinsed. Cooper’s wonderful, freewheeling update on the beloved Hollywood story is, for my money, on par with George Cukor’s 1954 classic when it comes to sheer emotional devastation. Its storyworld, however, has more in common with the ill-fated 1976 version, a star vehicle for Barbra Streisand that shifted the action from the dream factory of Hollywood to the star-maker machinery of the music industry.”

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