Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Crazy Heart

Finally got around to seeing Crazy Heart this past weekend. Great acting by Jeff Bridges and Maggie G, good story, and good music by T-Bone and Stephen Bruton. Looking over some viewer reviews the other day and it seems like most people liked the movie, but a small percentage really hated it. There were some common threads aside from the few that thought it was boring and slow moving, cliche ridden, or depressing and just a tale about a drunk. A couple of folks complained about Hollywood's tendency to hook up an old guy with a "27 year old hottie" and how it would have been more believable if she had been 35. While I agree with the overall sentiment, Maggie G was 32 when they shot the movie, so the writer was a little off base. Indeed, if they looked around there are a lot of hot 35 year olds (and not just in Hollywood). Heck, there are a fair number of hot 40 year olds. So, if you want to argue that it would be more believable if Jeff had hooked up with a 40 something reporter, then I'd certainly agree with you. But, it's still Hollywood, and more than likely it would be a "hot" 40-something, because 1) she'd have to have something to set her apart from the one-night stand fans, and 2) the audience wants some eye-candy too. Speaking as a 57-year old, I might argue as well that Maggie projected more soul and world-weariness than HOTness. Perhaps she needed a father-figure. Perhaps she saw something "real" in Bad Blake. And who's to underestimate the charm of the worldly performer? Someone older and wiser might not have been taken in by such a character.

Another line of dissent on the movie came from folks who thought that Robert Duvall was under-utilized and a few who thought that Tender Mercies was a much better movie on the same subject (including one person who suggested that the makers of Crazy Heart didn't know anything about the music industry). I don't remember Tender Mercies well enough to comment, but Bob had a good role in Crazy Heart and I can't say that I felt a need for more of him. As for lack of knowledge of the music business, that's a real laugh. It would be hard to find a duo with more knowledge of the music world than T-Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton, especially the working musician's world. T-Bone played with Bob Dylan during the Rolling Thunder Review, has had an interesting solo career, has been a prolific producer and has done a number of well-regarded soundtracks. Stephen was Kris Kristofferson's lead guitarist in the 70's and 80's, before settling in Austin and working as a producer (Jimmy Dale Gilmore among many), solo artist, session musician, and member of the Resentments before his untimely death last year. Supposedly, when Kris K saw a rough cut of the movie last year, he had a hard time watching it because it came so close to his own life and the lives of his friends (Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash).

Playing a drunk, addict or a crazy person is supposedly a good career move for an actor and it has certainly worked in recent years for Nicholas Cage and now Jeff Bridges, among others. Interesting that it's not something that audiences or producers are willing to try very often for a leading lady (though Ann Hathaway pulled it off, in a different way in Rachel Getting Married). It's hard to imagine too many folks willing to look as bad and take it as far as Bridges does here. And as a result some folks find it repulsive, or boring, or depressing.

Thankfully, the filmmakers didn't linger too long on the rehab stint, and also didn't have Bad relapse after Maggie rejects him. And while Bad's fortunes turn positive after rehab, the seeds were sown during the depths of his condition. He makes the deal with Tommy and writes the great song while he is still drinking hard and before Maggie walks out on him.

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