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.
Singer-songwriter Sean Rowe is growing his career with a grassroots approach. In addition to offering wilderness and foraging classes on his website, he splits his time between the road and raising a family. About a recent tour, Rowe says, “At every house, barn, chicken coop, apartment, loft
Set in 1950s Pittsburgh, August Wilson’s award-winning Fences offers an inside look at an African-American community in mid-20th century America. The play follows 53-year-old Troy—a former baseball star and thief—who struggles to provide for his small family. Troy’s wife, Rose, asks him to
Take some kite flying, throw in a little bird feeding, add an uber-nanny, a chimney sweep and two precocious kids, and you’ve got the makings for a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious evening when the Albemarle High School Players present Mary Poppins. Based on the popular Disney movie, the
Unconventional is a word often found in descriptions of Eugene Chadbourne’s work, but it doesn’t begin to capture the far-out 63-year-old musician’s career. Wikipedia notes that his mastery of guitar, banjo, rake and plunger, and his immersion in free jazz, folk and experimental music led to
Ben Wheatley’s obvious joy of filmmaking is contagious. It’s clear from everything he’s ever made that movement, color (or lack of it, as in A Field in England) and the extremes of human behavior compel him to create unique, kinetic films with an energy that bridges the gap between raw
In 2013, Chance Dickerson was working as a teaching assistant in the ESOL (English as a Second Language) department at Albemarle High School and he wanted to share his love of music with his students. So he set up an “underground studio” in an English class book closet and began teaching the
There’s something a bit off about The Realistic Joneses. “Maybe it’s me,” you think at first. You’re sitting so close to the middle-aged couple you’re practically on top of them. She’s talking about the beauty of the night air and the owl she can hear in the distance. He’s staring down at hands
Kendrick Lamar DAMN. (Aftermath) After the world-beating To Pimp a Butterfly and the casual but satisfying demo album untitled unmastered., anything Kendrick Lamar put out in 2017 would have drawn scrutiny; signs of falling off would have been magnified—even a sequel to Butterfly could have
From the Avett Brothers to Widespread Panic, this year’s annual Lockn’ Festival lineup is a who’s who of dusty rock music, but it’s not just household names. Since the festival’s inception, the Rockn’ to Lockn’ battle of the bands has made it possible for Virginia acts to make their Lockn’
Sometime in either 1984 or 1985 two junior high school kids with no interest in friendship were seated next to each other in typing class. It turns out they had even less interest in typing, and through a bit of distracted goofiness, including fusing the words wuss and penis, Ween was formed,
As a young boy moving about the Midwest with his family in the 1950s, Junior Brown became a good listener, and what he heard was country music “growing up out of the ground like the crops—it was everywhere; coming out of cars, houses, gas stations and stores like the soundtrack of a story.”
Merging the profound with the trivial, Will Eno’s absurdist script for The Realistic Joneses plays out like a tough-topic sketch comedy. When new neighbors arrive, two couples get to know each other through unlikely circumstances that bring them together and push them apart in unexpected ways.
When a major band comes to Charlottesville, it doesn’t necessarily take the stage at the John Paul Jones arena or the Jefferson Theater. Culture, one of the most influential reggae bands of all time, returns to play The Ante Room on April 21. And while the band hails from Jamaica, its current
After 16 years—old enough, as it turns out, to finally get its driver’s license—the Fast and Furious series finally has nothing left to prove. There’s no need to explain why good guys turn bad, how a particular bit of technology works or where an improvised ramp came from that Vin Diesel
In 2013, Dave Frey and his partner, fellow music promoter Peter Shapiro, started the Lockn’ Festival, a multi-genre musical blowout that takes place in late summer on the sprawling Oak Ridge Farm in the Nelson County town of Arrington. Over the past four years the event has brought an array of
Maybe it’s a cheap conceit for a writer, but there are times when it’s necessary to state the obvious: One of art’s prime functions is to take you somewhere else. In a riveting moment of contemplation, art conveys you to a deeper plane of thought, motivates you to cultivate an unexpected
Tom Tom Founders Festival saves one of its highlights for last in Porchella, a free music event that turns the expansive front porches of the Belmont neighborhood into stages for local players, including University of Whales, Michael Coleman and Gina Sobel. Pull up a lawn chair or stroll the
By nature, musicians draw from their emotional lives, consciously or not, to commune and titillate. Sallie Ford puts it all on her sleeve unabashedly on her new album, Soul Sick, a confessional that deals with vulnerability and rebuilding, offered through a British Invasion-meets-girl group
Sneaks It’s a Myth (Merge) Sneaks is 19-year-old Eva Moolchan. She’s from Washington, D.C., but don’t look for political rage or go-go on It’s a Myth. It’s sinewy, minimal pop you can dance to, albeit briefly—there are 10 songs in 19 minutes. And Moolchan doesn’t sound too bothered about
One of the most respected talents in opera today, Eric Owens grew up playing and performing music in his Philadelphia home before studying voice as an undergraduate at Temple University. Owens made his mark by taking on new roles in contemporary work before he gained notice for various