A Star is Born (R)
This iteration of the story melds the Judy Garland 1954 version with the better parts of 1976's "edgier" Barbra Streisand-led alternative. Cooper's Jackson Maine is an aging rock 'n' roll musician who's more often than not a sloppy drunk, coping with creeping tinnitus by obliterating himself nightly until he can no longer "hear" himself. He happens into a drag bar, where he meets Ally (Gaga), a server and cabaret performer. They bond quickly, over drinks and music. Jackson suggests that Ally join him for his next show, and though she resists at first, she does relent, and Jackson brings her on stage. The two make magic, performing Ally's song "Shallow," and thus begins her ascent and Jackson's descent, as the pair struggle to keep their flame lit.
Ally knows Jackson is an alcoholic. She doesn't judge him or meet him with angry outbursts. Jackson is a pass-out drunk, not a lash-out one, which complicates their relationship, because it would be easier for Ally to leave if he were mean or violent or cheating. Gaga's performance proves the adage that a director can make anyone a "naturalistic" actor if you point a camera at them. The A Star Is Born story construction has worked, again and again, because it's archetypal tragedy -- nobody believes there's a happy ending in sight. But Cooper still earned every one of my tears.