For me, this movie did not work, because I did not believe in Ally and Jackson's relationship from the start. Their first interactions, even acknowledging both of their "quirky" personalities, did not indicate a mutual spark between the two characters. As Jackson blatantly pursues her, Ally initially seems weirded out by his behavior even up until she goes to his first show. But the movie does not show how or why she changes her mind about him, nor does he try to woo her again. After getting "fed up" at work, she decides to drop everything and go to his concert, despite her annoyance with being followed by Jackson's employee. The start of their relationship was very much one sided and the transition to mutual care and respect was glossed over by the film despite their seemingly natural spark and love at first sight. The relationship was rushed and unreal so the beauty of their love was non-existent. And since these characters' relationship (whether successful or not) is the main aspect of the film, its infallibility left me uninvested.
Also, I found Ally's character to be very unlikeable. One, no fault of her own, but her character was somewhat shallow. She has a back story of always being perceived as ugly (information she tells Jackson very quickly after meeting him while still weirded out by his behavior. He too also discloses a lot of personal information to her when first meeting her without her opening a space for him to do so emotionally.) This back story is the corner stone of her character that propels her actions and career, but besides this, she doesn't really have any other identifiable qualities. Second, she berates Jackson's drinking in a way that is unkind and unsympathetic. Jackson's problems were known to her before they began their relationship, and the movie makes no attempts to show how Ally deals with the drinking except in random scenes when she screams at him. There are no scenes of her trying to get him to quit. No scenes of meaningful conversations between the two take place. So, when half way through the movie, the two get engaged and married, I was left confused as to how this relationship even got this far. And even if the movie wanted to convey the relationship was problematic, it did not. The plot seemed to just pass over these major points in order to cover the whole story and reach the climax of the film. As a result, I did not care at all about their relationship or really about Ally's character either. I did not care if their relationship succeeded. I did not care if Ally's career succeeded.
Another problem with the film is how the film portrays Jackson's drinking and drug abuse. Jackson clearly has a lot of trauma from his upbringing and current problems with his career. Coupled with his drinking and drug abuse, Jackson is supposed to be a very unstable character. However, his addiction is never thoroughly examined, how it started or what triggers him. In the movie, he swings back and forth between extremes. He either hasn't been drinking in a while (for no apparent reason) and then all of sudden is completely wasted or high to the detriment of himself and/or Ally. The inconsistencies of his alcohol and drug abuse are distracting throughout the film.
Another problem to consider is the film's sexist approach towards Ally's character, where all of her actions and decisions are controlled or orchestrated by the men around her. And while this is quite often the reality for young singers, the film doesn't try to make any commentary about this. For example, when Ally's manager forces her to change her hair and style, while she initially resists these changes, she ultimately goes along with whatever he says. And her character makes huge changes throughout the movie, not shown to the audience; and all are attributed to Ally's manager (who would be a generic bad guy if in an action or superhero film). After her initial reaction, the audience never sees how Ally feels about this and how these changes are affecting her self-esteem or character in any real way. The film shows Jackson's aversion to the "new" Ally but this seems more like a device for conflict between the main characters rather than a true examination of how Ally feels.
Finally, one of my biggest problems with the film was the ending. Jackson decides to take his own life after talking with Ally's manager, realizing that his actions negatively affect her. This last action left me feeling even more distant from the film, because his suicide did not coincide with the character they set up. Throughout the film, Jackson’s substance abuse and depression are evident, but he does not have a clear problem with suicidal thoughts that the movie talks about. This is not a present or underlining theme in the movie, so his suicide for me, while technically “understandable” seemed out of character. Jackson seems to only kill himself because of the words of Ally’ manager and “for her,” which I find problematic. In real life, there are many complicated reasons why someone may commit suicide, but the movie never attempts to really engage with those feelings (if they existed) of Jackson. If Jackson overdosed after having this troubling conversation with the manager, that would have made more sense. But the cognitive dissonance between the sadness of his death and yet the inconsistency to his character, disallowed me to feel the true weight of the film’s ending.
In the end, with Ally’s last performance of a song written by Jackson for her, it was difficult to truly, emotionally empathize with her. Feeling a somewhat ambivalence for Ally and their relationship, the movie’s ending left me feeling indifferent. Or rather, the ending left me feeling heated because of its untapped potential. As I have discussed my opinions of the film with fans, I realize that from the onset, because I did not believe in their relationship, this movie would not work for me. But even despite that, there are many areas the movie could have improved on.
Some highlights of the film for me were the music, Bradley Cooper’s performance as Jackson Maine, and funny side characters.