In writer-director Scott Cooper’s debut feature, based on Thomas Cobb’s novel, Jeff Bridges plays an aging country-and-western crooner who’s just about washed up, evidently in booze. Bridges’ Bad Blake sits comfortably within the musical tradition of Williams, Jennings, Nelson and Kristofferson, and less comfortably within his own broken-down life, which of course is why the music works so well. “Falling feels like flying,” he sings. “For a little while.”
In Crazy Heart, Jeff Bridges plays Bad Blake, a country singer who’s—you guessed it—down on his luck.
So what’s Bad Blake’s story? Well, he’s got lots. These days, Bad gigs mostly in dive bars and bowling alleys, with younger players who respect him enough to let him wander offstage, mid-chorus, to puke in the parking lot. It’s O.K.; he’ll be back in time to bring the tune home. And maybe to bring someone from the audience home. After all, he’s a pro.
Bad once had a protégé (Colin Farrell) who has risen up to huge success in the slick new country music scene, but hasn’t forgotten his mentor’s tutelage—even though forgetting might be easier for both of them. And of course he still has the songs, and the booze.
Then Bad meets Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a would-be journalist who shows up at his New Mexico motel room for an interview. She’s a lot younger than Bad, but you can’t call her a kid. She’s got a kid, in fact, and she’s raising him alone. So she knows what those songs are about, and what the booze is about, too.
It’s clear how this will have to work. The sudden, phony intimacy of that interview will give way to the gradual, more genuine, and maybe more dangerous intimacy of a love affair. But how? “I want to talk about how bad you make this room look,” he tells her. It’s a line, but a good one. Like one of his lyrics.
Watching Crazy Heart unfold, it’s hard not to think of Robert Duvall in Tender Mercies, not least because Duvall shows up in this movie too. But Cooper knows what he’s doing, and we get the idea: This is an awardable performance, a probable stereotype restored to an archetype. As such, it might not have succeeded without Bridges, who inhabits his character with stoic, illusionless dignity, nor without some exceptional original songs by T-Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton, who tailored them directly to Bridges’ gifts.
There’s a leanness to this tale, and an almost numbing familiarity. Maybe it’s like one of those songs in Bad Blake’s repertoire. You know how it’ll go—of course you do—and you don’t listen to be surprised. You listen to be reminded: of disappointments, self-destructions, regrets, and the truthful, tuneful fantasy of potential redemption.
What a rare pleasure it is to experience something that is truly, unmistakably awful. No, really; in an age where the knowing, ironic wink of an eye or a single act of ham-handed self deprecation is applauded even if the story is unwatchable, we have forgotten the cathartic joy that comes from
Carl Anderson’s adept folksy songwriting and never-fail sense of humor took him from a local festival staple to a full-time Tennessee troubadour. His earnest lyrics, sincere, rich baritone vocals and simple acoustic guitar stylings find him trailing a long wake of critical praise. The prodigal
Imagine entering a cave-like studio, its floor spotted with rags and walls textured with years of paint flicked off a loaded brush. You’re naked when you climb onto a small, sheet-covered bed, fully prepared to hold your pose for hours. Standing just a few feet away, an artist scrutinizes your
It’s all too frequent that I overhear someone mention that she’d “love to go to the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, if only it wasn’t so far away.” To put this in perspective, the drive from downtown Charlottesville to the museum takes about 10 minutes. It’s roughly double that if you
Caitlin Canty Reckless Skyline/Self-released Caitlin Canty is one of the most beguiling singer-songwriters around, and Reckless Skyline is the latest evidence that she is a cut above the rest. Her songs run the gamut from hard luck tales of life going sideways (“Enough About Hard Times”) to
Led by childhood friends Toby Leaman and Scott McMicken, Dr. Dog spent years on the road polishing and perfecting its intellectual pop rock sound defined by four-part vocal harmonies and poetic lyrics. Repeated tour stops in Charlottesville made the band a local favorite early in its career. “I
Young blues musician Adia Victoria is a self-proclaimed “back porch blues, swamp cat lady, howlin’ at the moon.” Born in South Carolina and currently based out of Nashville, Tennessee, Victoria sings about the South in a soft, sweet tone, but she can turn suddenly by cranking up the energy,
“Style over substance” is not generally a criticism that sticks to Michael Mann, a singular voice among directors for his unique take on suspense and action. Though there is no shortage of machine gun fire and high speed chases in his films, Mann gives equal weight to small moments of tension
It’s a cold world out there for trash. The wrap on your grab-and-go sandwich, the scratched CDs and ’80s Walkman, the broken toys and worn-out furniture and colorful detritus of rich, fast-paced lives are doomed to collect in landfills, antique shops and garbage-strewn street corners—unless an
Jazz player and UVA music professor Robert Jospé has some pretty far-out ideas about music. But Stephen Nachmanovitch, the man who’ll join Jospé onstage for a completely improvised concert on January 24 at UVA’s Brooks Hall, makes him seem like an accountant in a conservative suit. “My early
In 2012, Amelia Meath (Mountain Man) joined Nick Sanborn (Megafun) in Durham, North Carolina to collaborate on a song, and even though they had their own respective projects, they agreed there was something special between them, and eventually Sylvan Esso was born. The duo released its
Escape the arctic blast with Kawehi, the hottest one-woman band out of Lawrence, Kansas. This firecracker of a songwriter focuses on social injustice and doesn’t mince words in describing herself as a “shit talker” and “musician who walks like a trucker.” She also walks the talk by looping
Two stories come out of Nashville. The first one is: The town is full of amazing singer-songwriters, and you can see one of them playing on any given night at any corner bar. The second goes like this: The stars of modern country aren’t those same singer-songwriters; they’re the good-looking
Craig Jennings didn’t know Hannah Graham. But last fall, “after she disappeared under the eyes of cameras on the Downtown Mall, I couldn’t stop thinking about what her family was going through,” said Jennings, the choral director at Burley Middle School. That feeling grew stronger as days
Among the many artistic and political accomplishments of Ava DuVernay’s Selma is the full embodiment of grassroots activism. After generations of society’s dismantling of the breadth of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s political and ethical contributions down to a single sound bite (that is routinely
It’s a new year but many of us are still catching up on the 2014 books littering critic’s lists. There are plenty to choose from, with dozens of new titles published each week of the year. Two weeks into 2015, though, there are already contenders for the best of 2015 lining shelves and vying
Over two years after taking home a million dollar grand prize on “America’s Got Talent,” classic crooner Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr. continues to wow national audiences with his smooth Sinatra covers. While he’s not quick to forget his West Virginia roots, the once penniless car washer has
Oceaán The Grip EP/B3SCI Records Genre labels are inherently shortsighted, but if you absolutely have to use one for Oliver Cean a.k.a. Oceaán’s, second EP, The Grip, then try dubhoptronica. Angelic synths and hip-hop beats marry together seamlessly on the closing track, “At Your Feet,” while
Paul Handler is difficult to shoehorn. Despite possessing uncommon creativity, he subscribes to no single genre in his pursuits. It is rare, if not impossible, to find work that is attributed solely to his particular genius. Rather, Handler’s name has been made through his behind-the-scenes
Verona gentleman Petruchio attempts to turn headstrong Katherina into an obedient bride in Shakespeare’s ultimate battle of the sexes, The Taming of the Shrew. The American Shakespeare Company goes beyond the main comedy with the Bard’s Induction, creating a play within a play as drunken tinker