What, no role for Beau Bridges?

As Hollywood’s award season chugs along toward its high-water mark, soon we’ll have This Way to the Egress’ annual movie wrap-up and thoughts on the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Awards (what are those called again?).  First, a review of the flick Crazy Heart, helmed and adapted by the actor Scott Cooper, from the novel by Thomas Cobb.

Seriously, lil' bro, no part for me? No?

There’s an old joke about how if you play a country tune backwards, a ma’s wife, his dog, his luck will all return to him.  And though it might be tempting to view Crazy Heart as just another tired country tune, I would have to disagree.  I fell hard for this smart, small movie.

The film’s reason for being is a bravura performance by Jeff Bridges, as country wash-out Bad Blake; a performance made all the more interesting when contrasted with his musical work in the underrated The Fabulous Baker Boys.  Bridges is simply terrific here; there’s not an ounce of sentimentality to his performance (in fact, it is so damn simple and real that he unexpectedly turned up in the ‘We Are The World: 25 for Haiti‘ music video because Hollywood apparently thinks he’s now Kris Kristofferson).  Bridges has been so consistently good for so long now, through excellent, awful and indifferent flicks, that it’s easy to forget how good he can be.

What the hell am I doing here? They know it's a movie, right?

Some will say that not a lot happens, but that’s the power  ofwell-written small movies–  it’s just the opposite.  Lives are made and unmade, romances come and go, they feel like a shaggy-dog storytelling of real life.  Certainly a ton of kudos is owed to Cooper, a journeyman actor who took an obscure novel and turned it into a first-rate showcase.  Some will also say that so what, it’s another drunk picture, playing near to yourself and playing drunk are always way harder than non-actors think, and I defy anyone to see this flick and think it glamorizes alcoholism (to watch Blake vomit on himself is to watch the sadness of the disease).

Bridges is helped along by terrific supporting turns by the talented (and emerging) Maggie Gyllenhaal and a nearly unrecognizable Colin Farrell, in a performance that makes you remember he was an actor before he became a tabloid mainstay.  And while some may think it overkill that ol’ Robert Duvall turns up (in a thankless part, too), I prefer to think of it as homage to his great, Oscar-winning turn as a washed-out country star, Mac Sledge.  Inevitably the flick will be compared to that movie, Tender Mercies, but no disrespect to the late, great Horton Foote, I think this new one is the better model–  it avoids the easy sentimentality of the first (a plot-line that could derail it, Bad Blake meeting his estranged son, is thankfully handled with restraint).

Check out this man's tunes.

Finally, I read some interviews with the musician and producer T. Bone Burnett, and he talked about how he and Bridges avoided the project until they found some people musically who could make the flick work.  They found two.  The first was Stephen Bruton, who co-produced the music with Burnett, and who sadly died in May (the flick is dedicated to him).  The second is the young country singer-songwriter Ryan Bingham, who performs in the film (and acts a bit, too).  Perhaps this is why I was predisposed to like this flick, as I have his two albums in my iTunes:  his remarkable debut, Mescilato, and the worthy follow-up, Roadhouse Sun.  All the country music in the flick–old standards, new tunes improbably brought to life by Bridges and Farrell–make it work, no more so than a song I downloaded and listen to a bunch of times before I saw the movie:  the odds-on Oscar-winning favorite The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart).  In the flick it’s performed half-composed by Bridges;  on the soundtrack–or as an excellent single–it’s co-written and performed by Bingham.  Head over to iTunes and download it; like catching the flick and Bridge’s performance, you’ll want to grab a beer, do a little line-dancing, throw some Johnny Cash on the player, and you’ll be glad you did.

As if to confirm William Goldman’s legendary Hollywood maxim, ‘No one knows anything’, here’s an interesting Times article on the flick, and it’s behind-the-scene studio machinations and Oscar chances.

As long as everyone votes before they release 'Tron Legacy,' I'm going to win the Oscar!

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2 Responses to “What, no role for Beau Bridges?”

  1. Chelsea Says:

    Hi Wally. I personally despised this movie, but it’s more because I hate country music and alcoholism rather than any reflection on the film itself. I think Bridges is one of the best actors of our time. Colin Farrell shocked me with his intense likability. The thing that surprised me about they handled his character in particular is from the way they set up Tommy, it would’ve been so easy to make him your average asshole and feel sympathy for Brides’ washed up has been because of it. But he wasn’t at all. He was a worthy protege. I liked that.

    I think Maggie was too young for that role, but that’s a personal dislike of the age brackets in Hollywood. Other than that it was a good strong film, and I really think Bridges deserves some official recognition of his talent by the Academy.

  2. patricia harrington schreiber Says:

    YUK!!!!!! This film sucked in a very big way. How disgusting it was to watch a drunk puke all over himsef and then remove his sunglasses from it and put them on. Very hard to believe that Maggie Gyllenhall’s character could actually kiss him and **** him, ugh! it actually turned my stomach and if I hadnt already paid the $10 to get in I would have walked out. It didn’t ever do much to improve. Jeff Bridges is an amazing actor and I understand everyone wanting to give him recognition at last but this is not the role. The music was good. And Colin Ferril, Robert Duvall and Maggie Gyllenhall were as always great to watch. I WANT MY MONEY BACK!!!!!

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