Directed by Scott Cooper
Released December 16, 2009
There are movies driven by music, and there are movies driven by performances. This is one case where it’s hard to discern which is more moving, though while the songs written for the film are undeniably great, it’s hard to beat Jeff Bridges, who delivers a career-topping performance as country singer Bad Blake. There’s something simply irresistible and enticing about the combination of Bridges, a real-life musician, and the lifestyle-defining country songs he sings at his gigs throughout the film. This is a road movie about a man who has nothing to tie him down anywhere but who begins to realize that maybe the way he lives his life isn’t nearly as fulfilling as he might have hoped.
Bridges really makes the film, putting his all into the character and making the small moments count for so much. Early in the film, Bad goes to pull a cigarette out of the pack and ends up with not one but three cigarettes drooping out of the side of his mouth. He couldn’t care less, and it’s likely not the first time it’s happened. It’s an intimate moment that’s both funny and pathetic, and makes Bad an endearing protagonist whose journey throughout the film becomes intricately interesting and wholly worthwhile.
Bad’s story is one driven by and tied to his music, and therefore the scenes which actually showcase him performing are the ones that are the most touching and rousing. Bridges points to the significance of the lyrics of the songs, like “I used to be somebody; now I’m somebody else,” suggesting the deterioration of the aging, overweight musician and the nostalgic manner in which he looks back at his life. Bridges also describes the film’s tribute to the notion of getting “caught up in the myth that there’s something good about being bad.” It’s a deeply contemplative film, with a lead character who tries his hardest not to dwell on the glory days of his past but who, in the end, just can’t help it.
Bridges is the driving force of the film, but he has ample support from the other lead performer. Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Jean Craddock, a small-town reporter eager for a big story and the chance to interview a living legend. It’s through his conversations with her that Bad really begins to come undone, and the two share a fascinating chemistry which really makes the film work. Robert Duvall and Colin Farrell enhance some smaller scenes in the film that add to the deconstruction of Bad’s character. In many ways, it’s a very familiar story that has been told numerous times before, but the performances elevate it considerably. The music always makes it more infinitely more appealing, particularly the fantastic song “The Weary Kind,” sung by Bad during the film as an ode to his career and a stellar definition of the way his life has panned out. Bridges hasn’t seen his fame go down the toilet, but Bad is certainly the role of his career, and he delivers outstandingly.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009