This week, Lovefilm sent me True Grit and Crazy Heart together. I watched True Grit yesterday, so today it was time to watch Jeff Bridges win the Oscar for this flick, the year prior.
He’s born to be Bad.
This film is a chapter in the life of Bad Blake, a worn-down country singer reduced to playing bowling alleys and small bars at the same time that his former protégé Tommy Sweet is in the midst of a sell-out arena tour. Bad is truly done in. Broke in both his wallet and his spirit, he drives from town to town eating bad food and drinking cheap whiskey. The only possession he prizes is his guitar. While playing a bar in Santa Fe, the owner arranges an interview for Bad with his niece, Jean. Could this be the beginning of a new light in the fading star’s life?
It’s hard for me to write about this film so soon after seeing it. I found the whole thing enormously affecting. This is the kind of film I think my dad would have loved, and since I get my taste from him, well, you can probably guess how I feel about it. This is just a great story. Scott Cooper’s script says everything it needs to say, but it isn’t afraid to be sparse. The songs really support the structure of the story as well. The songs, by T-Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham, are amazing in fact. I’m actually playing the soundtrack on Spotify as I type.
Maggie Gyllenhaal is great as Jean. Despite the age difference, I never felt that ickiness that often comes up when you see an older actor get it on in a movie with some young starlet. I knew he was a producer on the film, but I had completely forgotten that Robert Duvall was in the film as well. Colin Farrell was a revelation in the small but pivotal part of Tommy Sweet. He’s built up by Bad’s residual bitterness over his success to be a bit of an asshole. When he finally turns up though, he’s such a nice guy. He genuinely cares for Bad and clearly feels a debt to him for teaching him all he did. The scene where he sneaks on stage during Bad’s opening slot was just great fun. I’m sure it would have been great to be there live.
When you consider that they were released within a year of each other, and that I’m watching and reviewing them a day apart, it is impossible not to look at this and True Grit as linked. They both feature powerhouse central performance from Bridges, playing men on the down slope of life. Both heavy drinkers, both less than happy with who they are, both finding some kind of redemption in the company of a young woman; Rooster in his admiration and respect for young Mattie Ross, and Bad in his love for Jean Craddock. In fact, if I think about Rooster Cogburn being part of a Wild West Show after his retirement from the Marshals’ Service, I can picture him being just like Bad Blake, waking up with the dregs of a last night’s bottle in hand, still stuck thinking about his glory days. I wonder if he found the love of a good woman too. I hope so.
There are some I’m sure who won’t be happy with the ending to Crazy Heart. To them I say this: you obviously never heard a country song before. This is how it’s supposed to end.