Why ‘A Star Is Born’ Speaks to Our Time

“A Star Is Born,” Bradley Cooper’s justly celebrated remake of the venerable Hollywood romantic fable, starring Cooper as the bad-ol’-boy rock ‘n’ roller Jackson Maine and Lady Gaga as Ally, the ingenuous singer-songwriter he falls for and helps to elevate to pop stardom, is a movie that’s tingly and transporting in all the ways you want it to be.

In a year that’s already shaping up to be as competitive among lead actors as any I can recall, Cooper, as the rock legend who’s a secret wreck (drunk, half-deaf, a man for whom the thrill of climbing onto an arena stage has become a burnt-out survival ritual), digs deeper than any actor I’ve seen in any movie this year. He inhabits the role with a sunburnt, gin-soaked authenticity that’s uncanny, but his performance has layers — it keeps taking the measure of what makes Jackson tick. And Lady Gaga is a revelation. She’s at ease on screen in the way that a pop star should be (but so rarely is), and she brings Ally a quality of complex and beguiling innocence. Ally is no sucker, but the way Gaga plays her, she takes in the world with a wily adoration that’s large enough to match the scope of Cooper’s fallen-from-grace, past-his-prime melancholy.

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