Musings on “A Star Is Born”

When I heard that Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga were starring in a film together I knew that I had to go to the theater opening night. This was merely a mental note that I deposited into my brain a couple of months before it was set to come out. It has been 4 months since it came out and I have not seen it. But now I am ready.

The beginning of the film reveals Bradley Cooper as a dude in a cowboy hat, singing vaguely country-adjacent music. Backstage, he takes a massive amount of anonymous pills, washes it down with a healthy sip of vodka/tequila soda with lime, and then proceeds to play the show in front of a large, adoring crowd. After the show he goes to a random bar, to drink, because he is an alcoholic. His first line at the bar is, “You have alcohol?”

At this bar he miraculously finds Lady Gaga singing the timeless classic, “La Vie en Rose.” This is apparently a regularly scheduled drag show, where the hosts have invited her to sing. Afterwards, he asks himself into the dressing room and then asks her to go to a bar. During this interaction, the first time either one has spoken with one another, he removes her faux eyebrows and upon hearing that she thinks her nose is too big, caresses her nose very slowly. She is flattered by this vaguely psychopathic behavior because this is a film, and he is Bradley Cooper. Note: This film was both written and directed by Bradley Cooper. They go to the bar, hijinks ensue, Lady Gaga punches a guy in the face, and they retreat out of the bar. The punch has injured her hand, and it is now moderately bruised.

This is why Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga are sitting on a parking block at an empty Super A Foods parking lot at night with the following items: 1 bag of frozen peas, 1 family size bag of “Si Senor Mucho Cheese” puffs, and two packs of self adhering athletic bandages. The following things happen in the parking lot:

Moderately Bruised Hand, Peas, Bandage, Cheese Puffs

Bradley Cooper is worried about her ring not coming off when her fingers swell up. So he removes the ring with his mouth and places it in his pocket for “safe keeping.” This is perhaps the single craziest and most audacious move I could possibly imagine (and I have mentioned that he has already removed her synthetic eyebrows and stroked her nose within the first 30 min of the film. Which means that the first 30 min of this film might include perhaps the three most audacious moves in the history of human interaction. For further reading on this, please reference my previous work “Musings on Kings, Legends, and Genius”). First, removing the ring with your mouth seems extremely difficult. Her hand is already moderately swollen, so the ring is going be quite stuck. I have to assume that his technique consists of grabbing the ring with his teeth (they unfortunately do not have an in-mouth camera to confirm this hunch), which seems quite difficult and could actually do damage to her already moderately damaged hand. However, because Bradley Cooper is a magician, he removes the ring effortlessly. I understand the sentiment. Romance always requires some form of escalation from platonic to romantic. However, if this was being scored in a figure skating format, this escalation would have set a world record in both the degree of difficulty and execution. Finally, I’ve also mentioned that upon removing the ring, Bradley Cooper places it in his pocket (this in fact might be the most audacious move of the night). There is absolutely no reason he would not just give the ring back to her. She naturally does not think anything is awry. In response to the move, Lady Gaga says, “You’re a sweetheart.” Bradley Cooper has stuck the landing.

“You’re a sweetheart”

After removing the ring, he expertly wraps the bag of frozen peas around her hand with the bandages. While this is an ingenious solution, I am left with the feeling that he is mildly virtue signalling by going full MacGyver. He has an entire supermarket of goods with which to solve her moderate hand swelling issue. There are exact products that this supermarket sells that will get that specific job done. What I am trying to say is that the bag of peas ploy is another great move by Bradley Cooper. It also has the added benefit of being cost effective, which is important in this economy.

They start talking about fame. He tries to deflect by talking about the peas. She replies, “No one ever asks you about you, huh.” Bradley Cooper does not respond. She continues, “Where are you from?” Finally an easy one word answer. He says, “Arizona.” To this she says, “Arizona Boy” in a knowing tone and then smirks. This is a concept that I am not familiar with. Is there some platonic ideal of an “Arizona Boy” that has taken on mythic qualities in the zeitgeist. I have met many men from Arizona, and they are fine, but in no way were they notable as “Arizona Boys.”

Anyway, Bradley Cooper is on a roll, he has finally answered a question with actual words. He naturally starts talking extemporaneously about his origin story and most intimate thoughts. We learn that his father worked for a pecan farmer. His father also, “knocked up the pecan farmer’s daughter just shy of 18.” The pecan farmer’s daughter died giving birth to Bradley Cooper. He says that his dad died when he was 13, followed by something muffled and totally incomprehensible about, “127 acres and Navajo.” Then there is silence.

Finally, with no prompting, Lady Gaga starts whisper singing a new song. “Tell me something, boy. Aren’t you tired trying to fill that void. Or do you need more. Ain’t it hard keeping it so hardcore.” Bradley Cooper asks, “Is that me?” Lady Gaga nods. To this he says, “Pretty good.”

This “pretty good” gives her the confidence she needs to go Full Gaga. She stands up and starts singing quite intensely for a sustained amount of time. After effortlessly crooning for two minutes a song she has written off the top of her head, she rejoins Bradley Cooper on the parking block. Bradley Cooper says, “Can I tell you a secret…I think you might be a songwriter. Don’t worry I won’t tell anybody, but I’m not very good at keeping secrets.” Good one Bradley, good one. He then kisses her moderately bruised hand and she strokes his unbruised cheek with her moderately bruised hand. Cut to his driver, who has been awkwardly standing 20 yards away chomping on cheese puffs the entire time.

Super A Foods Parking Lot

This scene is ludicrous, and perfect. It seemingly lasts two hours (it lasts 5:12 in actuality), there is minimal dialogue, and really only sets up three things. Bradley Cooper is emotionally distant and is an expert at deflecting away questions directed towards him. Lady Gaga is a gifted songwriter and has weak hands. And despite all the stilted dialogue and legitimately weird (awesome) Bradley Cooper moves, it also shows why they will eventually grow to love each other. These are the three essential threads in the film. Everything else in this film goes twice as fast as what is comfortable, in a good way. But it is this scene, which moves at a glacial pace, that is the one that sticks with me. It is human paced, a welcome reprieve from the break neck pacing of the remainder of the film. They sit there in an empty parking lot as their driver eavesdrops, sucking on each other’s fingers, gruffly talking, and singing. What a perfect encapsulation of how life truly is.

Later in the film (Spoiler Alert) Bradley Cooper crushes up a massive pill with the heel of his cowboy boot and snorts it straight into his nose without any accoutrements. I wish I could do that with this parking lot scene.

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