The song Shallow, sung superbly by Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, and currently occupying top spot in charts around the world, is the beating heart of Cooper’s latest film, A Star is Born. In the film, Cooper plays Jackson Maine, the wildly popular country singer at the top of his game, and Gaga plays Ally, the unknown girl with the incredible voice who Maine discovers in a bar and promptly falls in love with.
Shallow describes an existential ache to crash through the surface of life and find something deeper, and safer, something far away from the pain.
It begins with Maine singing to Ally:
Tell me somethin’ girl
Are you happy in this modern world?
Or do you need more?
Is there somethin’ else you’re searchin’ for?
And then Ally responds:
Tell me something boy
Aren’t you tired tryin’ to fill that void?
Or do you need more?
Ain’t it hard keeping it so hardcore?
Repeated throughout the song is the chorus which they sing together:
In all the good times I find myself longin’ for change
And in the bad times I fear myself
It’s the perfect song for the movie. Maine and Ally are in love. But Maine is an alcoholic coming to the end of his fame, and from the first scene you just know his story is not going to end well. Ally, on the other hand, is a star on the rise.
The performance by them of Shallow at a Maine concert is truly euphoric. It is the moment in the film where the storiesof their life intersect and unite. And it looks as though Ally might just be the redeemer Maine needs.
Too Great a Void
But she’s not. And she can’t be. The void in Maine’s life is just too cavernous to be filled by Ally. He is desperately longing for change. But his shame, his guilt, and his fear of himself and of what he might do to Ally are things he is never able to overcome, not even with her help.
A Star is Born is yet another film from Hollywood that brilliantly, painfully, and compellingly lays bare the problem that lies at the heart of the fallen human condition—the existential longing to crash through the shallowness of our existence and find something deeper and safer. We are desperate for someone to find us, and change us; someone whose life can intersect with ours in a way that fills us with hope and brings us redemption.
For those who have ears to hear, A Star is Born is begging us Christians to get out of our ghettos and to engage much more deeply and openly with our neighbours.
For those who have ears to hear, A Star is Born is begging us Christians to get out of our ghettos and to engage much more deeply and openly with our neighbours. We need to love them better by listening to their stories, by being curious about the world they inhabit, and by tuning in to longing for change.
And at the same time we need to pray that God will use everything about us to introduce those same neighbours to the one who was born under a star – the one who offers love and forgiveness and freedom, who fills the void with hope, and who changes us in ways that will last into eternity.
Note: This film includes strong language and some confronting material. As always, viewers should exercise discretion.