Tuesday, January 26, 2010

 

Taken for granted for far too long


By Edward Copeland
How many years, decades has it been now that moviegoers have just accepted Jeff Bridges as a constant good? He's never been what you'd really label a movie star. His work always has been that of the yeoman character actor.

Link these: Duane of The Last Picture Show and Nick Kegan of Winter Kills; Starman and Tucker; four Jacks: Baker in The Fabulous Baker Boys, Lucas in The Fisher King, Kelson in American Heart and President Evans in The Contender; Ted Cole in The Door in the Floor, the Dude in The Big Lebowski , even Wild Bill.

Now add to this menagerie Bad Blake in Crazy Heart. What connects all these disparate parts and many others is the actor lurking beneath their varied skins and costumes. The spotlight seems to suddenly have turned its often short attention span on Jeff Bridges and it's about damn time.


From the moment Bridges appears on screen in Crazy Heart, he is Bad Blake. Seemingly every cell, every hair follicle and every way his 57-year-old body moves, whether to hold a guitar, swill a drink or have a smoke, there is little Jeff Bridges in evidence in the movie, there's just Bad Blake. It's a good thing too because Bad Blake is the movie. He's in virtually every scene and even though some aspects Crazy Heart seem very familiar, Bridges works such wonders with it, that you don't mind much.

Blake once ruled as a country music superstar, but now he's reduced to playing bowling alleys and drinking too much, living off advances, sometimes with as little as $10 in his pocket when he rolls into his latest town. Still, his gravelly exterior has charm to spare, for the crowds or the occasional lady who longs to share his bed for a night. Yes, his career may have hit the skids, but a loyal fan base persists, making a reporter in Santa Fe (Maggie Gyllenhaal) want to interview the man about the difference between his style and what she deems the "artificial country" that dominates radio today. Soon, a real romance develops between the two.

One of the primary beneficiaries of today's country music is Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), a former protege of Blake's who still feels tremendous loyalty toward his mentor and tries to use his stardom to reignite his mentor's career however he can.

Writer-director Scott Cooper adapted the novel by Thomas Cobb and he certainly brings an authentic feel to the settings and the character (helped in no small part by the original music by T. Bone Burnett and his collaborators), despite moments that steer uncomfortably close to being a country-music version of The Wrestler.

Still, Bridges' powerhouse turn more than compensates for any weaknesses that the film itself has and it's worth seeing just to spend some time with Bad Blake.


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