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Recovery Backlash Over ‘A Star Is Born’

If you’ve been keeping up with the entertainment sites, then you’re well aware that one of the buzziest movies of the season in the big screen drama A Star Is Born. The film (which stars Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga) has been getting rave reviews and creating extreme emotional reactions based on the journeys of the main characters. Well, while we know that this is a fictional story, it has created some negative feelings among recovery professionals and those who have beaten their addictions.


Now before we get into the details, let’s frankly say that Spoiler Alerts lie ahead. That being said, a main focus of the criticism has been pointed at Cooper’s character Jackson Maine. Throughout the film, he openly struggles with alcoholism and opioid addiction; ultimately ending up in a luxury treatment facility.


The way that experience is portrayed, however, is what is upsetting our industry. In this scenario, Maine is discharged way too soon and takes his own life shortly thereafter. The way his recovery experience is carried out on film goes against many of the principles of licensed practices. Maine’s setup is made to look like a spa vacation, with no therapists, professionals, or evidence-based treatment in sight.


USA Today writer Jessica Hulsey Nickel covered the reactions quite well, when addressing inaccuracies in Born.


“There are so many ‘should haves’ in this movie,” she wrote. “The needless, preventable tragedy in this film, and Maine’s wife’s gut-wrenching loss, is all too real for the millions of Americans dealing with addiction in their families. It may sound trivial, but if we began to see real evidence-based treatment plans on the silver screen, wouldn’t that help the world understand how we should really address this illness?”


Honestly, we couldn’t agree more with that statement. Hulsey Nickel openly admitted that both her parents were lost to addiction and, in some ways, felt that this topic was treated with insensitivity in the film.


Her piece called out several protocols that appeared to be ignored during Maine’s recovery stint. The fact that there was no physician supervision. The fact that his stay should have been extended. The fact that there was no mental therapeutic support or dual diagnoses present, just to name a few.


Again, we completely acknowledge that this is a fictional account of events and dramatic flair reigns supreme in these movies. But hopefully the next time Hollywood attempts to expose some big budget recovery moments, they do it with a little more accuracy and sensitivity.