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A Star is Born (Spoiler version) 2018

I took advantage of A Star is Born Encore, a return to theaters with twelve minutes of extra footage. Since I knew the ending this time I was able to pick up on so many little foreshadowing details. The extra footage was a nice addition, but didn't contribute much. It is mostly on-tour scenes of backstage and tour-bus antics. If you haven't seen this in theaters, take this opportunity.

I found the second viewing to be harder to watch than the first because I knew Jack would take his own life. The little steps towards his ultimate end made me a bit unsettled in the theater as each step was taken. This isn't a bad thing, more of a general discomfort.

The opening scene has Jack singing Black Eyes, "I'm all alone by the wayside". This captures exactly where he is in life. The next song is Ally's rendition of La Vie en Rose as Jack meets her for the first time. I didn't notice in my first viewing that Ally has installed a neon light with that song's title in Jack's house while he was in rehab. It casts the entire room in a warm red glow for the final few scenes; it feels ominous.

I may have noticed, but didn't acknowledge it during my first viewing, that the tinnitus gradually gets louder and louder through the movie until it is deafening at the end of Jack's life. It builds subtly throughout the movie until it takes the foreground prior to his death. There is some symbolism of the tension of the movie building.

Sam Elliott is phenomenal as Bobby. It is interesting that he has just as much screen time as Noodles, Dave Chappelle, at the end of the wedding sequence. Bobby shows up again later and delivers another great couple of scenes, but he is such a small part of the movie that him not winning the supporting actor Oscar made sense. It would be good to see him given a leading role in a movie where he could win an Oscar.

I decided to believe Jack when he said he wasn't drinking after meeting Ally the first time and at various other small windows that are high points in his life. I think these windows closed rapidly, but I feel he made honest efforts to better himself. Addiction is a disease and with most diseases, there are good days and bad days. Stringing together a few good days for an addict is very hard.

The movie never addresses who is giving Jack the drugs. The closest we get is when he is getting his steroid injection and is handed pills. I don't understand why nobody tries to go after his drug supplier. The Memphis drug convention performance is a nice short homage to a current epidemic. Paying Jack for a private concert can't have been cheap and the gigantic army of pharmaceutical reps give a glimpse of the problem. I did appreciate that it was just a passing scene and didn't try to make a larger point in the movie. If this movie got political, it would not have been as good. Bradley Cooper showed great restraint in his direction.

The first time I saw the movie I blamed Rez, Ally's agent, for Jack's death. To use a metaphor, Jack had a belt around his neck and was precariously balanced on a stool. Rez kicked the stool out from under Jack. The Jack would have fallen off the stool no matter what, but Rez accelerated the process. Bobby says, 'Its Jack's fault, nobody else', to console Ally; that is often the pattern with suicide. Loved ones believe they are somehow to blame, but in most cases, they aren't. There is only so much you can do to help someone. That isn't an excuse to give up on someone, but it is the reality of the situation.

The enablers around Jack are never named or pointed out, but his problems are rooted in his childhood. I appreciated that stories of Jack's childhood are revealed in natural conversations. The slow reveal of various stories are expertly executed. Jack and his dad being drinking buddies from so young set him up on a path of failure. In the rehabilitation center it is revealed that Jack had a failed suicide attempt before his father died. By not dumping all of these stories at once, you are left wondering about Jack and your assumptions are either confirmed or you have to rethink your interpretations of the events of the movie.

The fact that I had a hard time watching the movie the second time, demonstrates just how good it really is. A Star is Born deserves a revisit.

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