Posts Tagged ‘Robert Duvall’

Jeff Bridges is the life of Crazy Heart

January 19, 2010 Leave a comment

The minute that Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) steps out of his beat up old car you know everything about that character. He is tired, his pants belt unbuckled and he pours out a jug of his own urine. He’s lived quite the life. Jeff Bridges has always been one of our great actors, delivering solid work for nearly forty years. The many award nominations he’s received for this film is richly deserved.

The film, written and directed by Scott Cooper, stars Bridges as a once famous country singer named Bad Blake. His fame now gone, he is forced to play gigs in bars and bowling alleys. He is greeted by a handful of fans who are still loyal to his music. The only solace that Blake finds from playing these depressing gigs is in the bottle. For Blake, booze is like water. Blake is able to finds some hope for his future when he gets involved with a reporter, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal. He finds more relief when a former pupil of his, played by Colin Farrell, offers him some help if Blake can write some new songs for him.

The story of a flawed man seeking redemption is one we have seen before. It’s the performance of Bridges that elevates the film beyond the familiar plot. Roger Ebert said it best when he states that Bridges makes us belive that Blake has lived this hard, difficult life. There is one great shot where we see him looking at bottles of booze in a store. He is broke and we see the temptation and desperation all in the way Bridges stares down those bottles of booze.

The country songs are great. The songs written by T-Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham are catchy and entertaining. Bridges captures the performer in Bad Blake brilliantly. He may be drunk up on the stage, and running out to vomit, but he knows how to give his handful of devoted fans, a real show. There is some solid work from Colin Farrell and Robert Duvall, who shows up toward the later part of the film. Duvall’s presence reminds us of a similar role he played as a down-on-his luck country singer in the great”Tender Mercies.” Gyllenhaal doesn’t quite measure up next to Bridges. I don’t buy some of the decisions that her character makes in the film.

My problem with the film is the loose narrative. I felt there wasn’t enough of a dramatic pull in the film. It does sort of wonder along to its conclusion. Things are wrapped up far too nicely at the end for my taste, especially the issue of Blake’s alcoholism. This is a case where the performance is better than the film.

3 Stars

Here is a clip of Bridges performing one of the songs from the film called “The Weary Kind.”


A Strenuous Journey Down The Road

December 8, 2009 Leave a comment

Strenuous is an apt word to describe the journey that the main characters in the film go through. It is also a proper word to describe the film itself. The film is an absorbing journey into a post apocalyptic world, but it’s also a frustrating piece of filmmaking that never quite reaches the level of greatness.

The Road, based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, stars Viggo Mortensen as a nameless man who wonders around a post apocalyptic America with his son, played by Kodi Smit-McPhee. The two journey toward the coast in hope of some type of salvation. Along the way they encounter a group of outlaws who resort to cannibalism to survive. In this world you can’t trust anyone. Mortensen clings to the past through flashbacks which show his life with his wife, Charlize Theron.

What I like about the film is the dark, dour environment that the director, John Hillcoat, has created. I appreciate that we don’t get to see what causes this apocalyptic world. The only hint we get is the ominous glow of fire coming through the windows in the flashback scenes. This is a bleak world of monochrome. Must credit the film’s cinematographer, Javier Aguirresarobe. Hillcoat is good at creating dirty environments on screen. Just watch his 2005 film, The Proposition. In that film you literally feel the slime on the characters and environment.

Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee are both good in the film. Mortensen is an actor who always fully immerses himself into each film role, and he does that here to great effect. Smit-McPhee does get a little annoying with his dialogue. I got tired of him saying papa. I attribute this weakness to the script by Joe Penhall. Robert Duvall makes a great cameo appearance. Duvall really nails the scenes he is in.

In a film about a world with no humanity, I could have used more of that. I’m not asking for sentimentality, what I wanted was a connection to make me care about these characters. The big emotional moments in the film didn’t work for me at all. The film has to rely on the score by  Nick Cave and Warren Ellis to convey what the viewer should be feeling. I found the score really distracting.

While the film keeps a pretty dark tone throughout, it does falters at the end. There is a deus ex machina of hope that comes at the end that rang false to me. The first half of the film intensely held my interest but halfway through I went from active participant to passive observer.