…and a star falls. “A Star Is Born’s ending undoes what could have been a Hollywood classic,” stated Alex Leadbeater in his review on the movie now out in theaters. Many reviews criticize the ending and claim that it ruins an otherwise outstanding film. I think this feedback on the film is a perfect depiction of life. Yes, we want a great story with all the components¬¬– passionate love, fame, fortune, and the rags to riches wonderful ending so many of us are pursuing in our own life. We want it all and we don’t want to fall to get there. But, that’s just now how it works.
The truth is that life has a lot of ups and downs, a lot of challenges and heartache. There is a real messiness about being a human being on the planet. It’s awkward, embarrassing, painful, and arduous as well as joyful, amazing, and awesome. It is all that. We are great at talking about the upside. We celebrate our promotions, birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, and milestones on social media and with friends. We don’t hesitate to share in our joy. How well are we doing in sharing the other side? In my perspective, not great. We often hide our disappointments, heartaches, stumbles, and challenges. We fear what others might think or how they may respond. These are tough things to talk about. We might not always know what to say. This is the messy, the painful, and the at times awkward. So often we avoid it. We don’t share this side and something happens when we withhold our pain and suffering. We make it wrong and in this shame is born.
Our silence has created a culture of so many suffering alone. The most devastating result of this is suicide. This is the painful reality that “undoes what could have been a Hollywood classic.” A Star is Born ends in the suicide of one of the characters we have come to love. It’s devastating to witness, even though we know it’s just a movie. Because what we really know is it’s not just a movie. This is happening all the time. With suicide rates as high as they have been in Eagle county, this is the reality for so many of us.
I didn’t see it coming. I didn’t realize this story has been around for quite some time and there have been multiple remakes. I wasn’t familiar with the story and didn’t know how it would end. It caught me very much off guard. Honestly, I wish I knew and had a heads up. I wish I had seen a warning that the movie contained strong content about suicide.
I’ve had my own journey with suicide. Starting at 16 years old thoughts of wanting to kill myself have been present for me most of my life. I intimately know the pains of feeling like a burden and not belonging anywhere. I, too, felt like I would be making things better for those I loved if I killed myself. I felt I did more to harm those around me then contribute to them in anyway. Yes, that was the depression talking. My views were very distorted at the time, but that is what felt real and true to me at the time. I’ve come to a place of healing and recovery and haven’t been in suicidal crisis for over 8 years. I feel I have my feet pretty solid at this point. However, this film knocked them out from under me.
The main character, played by Bradley Cooper, struggles with addictions and has received the hard news from someone that he is ruining his wife’s career. She had just received her first Grammy and in a drunken stupor he found his way to the stage where in the middle of her acceptance speech, he stood there and urinated in his pants. We felt the embarrassment and humiliation along with him and his wife. Yet, this is what made him so loveable to us and why we so connected with him. He was vulnerable. We can relate. We’ve all been there in one way or another. We didn’t hate him in the moment or judge him, we felt for him. We loved him. This is the magic of vulnerability– it drives connection.
Just as we fall so in love with this man and his humanness he takes his own life by hanging himself in their garage. It’s beyond devastating. The movie gives us a glimpse of suicide¬– the pain, the devastation, the destruction, the loss, the grief. We get it all.
As I watched, I felt it all. The best way I can describe it, it touched a nerve. I know the pain of suicide so intimately and in one second that pain was as present as it was in my times of crisis. Along with it was the pain of those I’ve lost to suicide. The pain of knowing they were in pain, and the pain of the loss. I was overwhelmed. I walked out of the theater in a fog.
I went home and went straight to bed. I cried harder than I have in years. I reeled with floods of different emotions. I’m still not totally clear why this film touched me so deeply. Perhaps because it brings to light the pain of the field I’ve chosen to work in. Maybe it brings up the pain of so many losses to suicide. Maybe it resurfaces my own pain and grief in this journey.
So, yes, this was a VERY difficult movie for me to watch. Am I glad I saw it, yes. I’m I glad the ending is what it is, yes. It’s painful to watch, but it is necessary. We need to get better at facing our pain head on. Not numbing it, avoiding it, or hiding from it. I heard one woman say as she was getting up from her seat, “I need a drink.” I understand. She didn’t want to feel the pain. BUT WE NEED TO. This is how we grow. This is how we learn. This is how we heal. This is the cure.
I love movies like this that start a conversation. We need to talk about all aspects of life, not just the easy, fun, joyful ones. We need to be able to embrace each other in the falls, in the stumble, in the pain. IT IS OKAY TO STUMBLE. IT’S OKAY TO NOT BE OKAY. No one ever got a feeling wrong. Wherever you are at in this moment is okay AND you don’t have to do it alone.
Let’s get real with each other. Let’s stop pretending, avoiding, and hiding. We’re not perfect. We don’t have to be. What have you not been saying? Say what you need to say. What pain have you been avoiding? Who could you reach out to today and share something real, vulnerable, and honest? You never know, it might just save a life.
You are not alone. There is support. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Lifeline 800-273-8255. To continue the conversation or learn more about preventing suicide or how to help please visit www.speakupreachout.org.