Who’s In It: Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ryan Bingham, Robert Duvall, Colin Farrell
The Basics: Washed-up honky-tonk singer “Bad” Blake (Jeff Bridges) is living the dream, playing roadhouses across the southwest with nothing to tie him down. Well, maybe that’s not quite where he wants to be in life. He was a big-time country star once upon a time, but then his sideman (Colin Farrell) stole his glory. Now he drinks his way through his greatest hits and hooks up with GILFs, a fate meant for lesser failed musicians. When Bad meets a beautiful but totally approachable young reporter (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who wants an interview from him – and maybe much more – she and her son snap Bad out of his fiftysomething-year-old ennui. But can an old man change his ways?
What’s The Deal: This little character drama from first-time director Scott Cooper (who also adapted the script from Thomas Cobb’s novel) came out of nowhere to land Jeff Bridges squarely in this year’s Oscar race, and deservedly so. His turn as a shaggy, whiskey-swilling mess of a musician (who, nevertheless, has never missed a show in his life) is a quiet, lived-in study with no hint of vanity about it. Bridges is unafraid of being ugly and irresponsible, and comes packing a beer gut to boot. Anyone who doesn’t get a lift from seeing an emotionally damaged Jeff Bridges pick up the broken pieces of his life and regain his pride as a man has no heart at all. None!
Country Music Anyone Will Like: I’m not a fan of modern country, but Crazy Heart’s soundtrack, produced by T-Bone Burnett, is one of the year’s best. It features songs sung by Jeff Bridges and co-stars Ryan Bingham and Robert Duvall, as well as country stars like Waylon Jennings, George Jones, Townes Van Zandt, and Burnett’s ex-wife Sam Phillips, which should give you an idea of what type of country music we’re talking about here: the old man sipping on whiskey ‘n’ beer kind, and better than anything topping the country music charts right now.
A Cliché We Could Do Without In The Movies: Self-destructive artists and the women who love them. It’s a tired, predictable trope, so by the time Maggie Gyllenhaal is crying over Bad’s substance abuse, you just want her to snap out of it. She’s a music journalist, for goodness sake. Hasn’t she seen Walk the Line? (Oh right, I forgot. Maggie Gyllenhaal is the worst journalist in the entire history of journalism for making bedroom eyes at her subject while asking the world’s worst interview questions. And then she sleeps with him.)
Enough with the May-December Romances: Granted, Maggie Gyllenhaal cozying up to Jeff Bridges isn’t quite as quease-inducing as the young woman-old guy hook-up we saw this year in Whatever Works, where Evan Rachel Wood married a man old enough to be her grandfather. That doesn’t make the Gyllenhaal-Bridges snogging any less yucky, especially considering that she was four years old when he was racing light cycles in TRON.