A washed up Country Western star struggles to repair the shambles of his life. Sure, we’ve seen it before, but have we seen it with Robert Duvall? Oh, wait, yeah, we have: Tender Mercies. We’ve also seen it with Clint Eastwood (Honkeytonk Man), Joaquin Phoenix (Walk The Line) and Willie Nelson (Honeysuckle Rose). Just to name four others off the top of my head.
Ah, well, Duvall has just a small role in this one, but I swear, I thought the audience was going to applaud when he showed up. Duvall’s pushing 80, but apparently he’s having whatever Eastwood’s having; he looked great!
Mostly, though, this is all about Jeff Bridges. The movie starts with him playing in a bowling alley, and I so wanted to hear him say, “Yeah, well, the Dude abides.” But there’s no Dude in this similarly alcoholic down-on-his-luck character.
There’s no way for me to talk about this without gushing. Bridges rocks. He always has. At least as far back I can remember. He’s one of the few actors I’ll go see a movie just because he’s in it. (I almost went to see Door in the Floor and Men Who Stare At Goats for him.) He’s one of these actors who is not quite a chameleon, changing his looks and speech for every role, but also not a “movie star”, who plays the same guy every time.
In this movie, he plays Bad Blake (ahem), a guy who’s been killing himself slowly over decades. His songwriting skills have earned him some money from being performed by hot, new singer Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell—that Irish guy does good accents!), but he’s hit the skids and not writing, while Sweet basks in the limelight.
At the very bottom, he meets Jean Craddock (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, probably best met at the very bottom) and her 4-year-old son, and sort of latches on to them, as they fill a (self-created) void in his life.
I think it’s a testament to Bridges that the relationship between the 60-year-old Blake and 30-something Jean seems plausible. The writing, I think, is on the money, too. Bad Blake sees them as a chance at redemption, a way to turn his life around.
I give Gyllenhaal credit, too. After being horribly miscast in The Dark Knight, and constantly typecast as quirky characters, she does a good job as a single mom who’s really trying hard not to fall for a guy who is, quite clearly, trouble.
I liked the ending. It’s not Hollywood. But it’s not a big up-yours-life-sucks indie ending, either.
I also kind of liked the music. It was very simple, with quite a bit of rhythm and blues in with the traditional country feel.
Watching the movie, I thought that Bridges doesn’t have the singer/songwriter stage charisma to pull it off, but I realized I was comparing him to Loudon Wainwright, who is sort of the ne plus ultra of one-man-shows (and who doesn’t play bowling alleys).
Took my dad with me on this one. He loved it, maybe more than I did. The Boy? Not so much. He’s not much into music. (Yeah, I don’t get it, either.) He’s not so familiar with Jeff Bridges, though he liked his performance. But it’s a grownup movie.
Anyway, this is the fifth Oscar nomination for Bridges. And it’d be a worthy win.
Now I just need to knuckle-down and go see Avatar and I can give you my best of 2009 list. So far I can say it’s gonna be tough to find 10 movies worthy of being on any top 10….