Unrestricted M: Suicide, sex scenes, offensive language and drug use
This page outlines how the classification criteria were applied. We do our best to discuss the content while avoiding spoilers, but please avoid reading this information if you do not want to learn anything about the content of this movie.
A Star is Born was given an updated descriptive note in NZ within its first week of exhibition.
A Star is Born was not classified by the OFLC when it released in New Zealand. It had been rated an M in Australia so was automatically cross-rated M (Unrestricted, suitable for 16 years and over) in New Zealand by the Film & Video Labelling Body. At that stage, it carried a descriptive note ‘Sex scenes, offensive language and drug use.’ The Chief Censor required that the warning note be updated to include ‘suicide’ after receiving complaints from members of the public, including health care providers.
The first complaint involved Police Victim Support advising that they responded to two vulnerable young people who had been severely triggered by the scene. The Mental Health Foundation also informed us of a number of complaints.
The method of suicide used in A Star Is Born is the most common method of suicide in NZ.
Chief Censor David Shanks says that although A Star Is Born handles the topic relatively sensitively, the OFLC felt it was in the best interest of the NZ public to add a warning, particularly considering NZ’s appalling suicide rate. “Many people in New Zealand have been impacted by suicide. For those who have lost someone close to them, a warning gives them a chance to make an informed choice about watching,” says David.
The Film & Video Labelling Body issued a new certificate to be displayed and alerted exhibitors to the note change so that they could update their information. Where possible, the distributor must update the label on all advertising.
“We avoid unnecessary ‘spoilers’, but properly informing the viewing public is our primary concern.”
Date registered: 19/10/2018
A Star is Born is the fourth iteration of a well-known rags-to-riches tale, originally written and filmed in the 1930’s. The 2018 update tells the story of aspiring singer-songwriter ‘Ally’ and her star crossed romance with grizzled country-rock star, Jackson Maine. Recognising a raw musical talent when he sees one, he plucks her out of obscurity and puts her on the world stage, where she soars. They fall in love and marry, only for Jackson to succumb to his serious drug and alcohol addiction. Romantic tragedy beautifully - but predictably, for those who have seen any of the film’s previous iterations - ensues. Strong performances from the lead actors, an epic soundtrack, and a big, beating heart of a story, make for a brilliant feature.
As the film does not feature content of a level that requires restriction, the depictions of sex and offensive language are low level, though still more suited to a mature audience. Jackson frequently uses drugs and alcohol throughout the feature, but this is accurately portrayed as an unhealthy addiction, and is not glamorised.
The suicide occurs towards the end of the film, and forms the dramatic climax of the story. It is told in a series of short, cut-scenes alternating between Ally’s stage performance, and Jackson’s death at home, alone. The scene itself is restrained. We see him walking into the garage holding a belt. Later, viewed from outside the garage through a small window, we see a man’s torso suspended in the air. His dog lies outside the door. Suicide is also referenced earlier in the feature, when Jackson enters rehab and mentions he tried to kill himself as a 12 year old.
We realise that adding ‘Suicide’ to the descriptive note provides something of a spoiler for those unfamiliar with the previous films. However, given the public reaction, we decided in this case that it was warranted. Forewarned is forearmed - those who have experienced bereavement to suicide should be informed in order to make an educated decision about their own viewing habits.
The Mental Health Foundation have released a great article regarding suicide in movies and television shows. And if you or someone you love are in need of support or experiencing distress, please contact our friends at the following local organisations:
Contact the Information Unit if you require further information on a classification decision.