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.
Throughout the last four centuries, publishers, editors and artists have created a vast range of textual interpretations of William Shakespeare’s works—from original printings and family-friendly versions to Romeo and Juliet translated into social media posts, complete with emojis. To
These days it’s rare to find a musical style that remains provincial, but the greater D.C. area’s grip on go-go is still the heart of the genre. Tight funk blended into hip-hop call and response sets the boogie in motion for the Double Faces Gogo Band, formed in C’ville as a tribute to the
After leaving Pale Blue Dot two years ago, Tony LaRocco returns from a stint of self-discovery to front the local quartet once again. The modern pop group reveals its soul through lyrics that reflect a sense of nature, space and Buddhist precepts, and its latest EP, Telescopes, produced by
For the first time in his impressive career, the Shane Black formula never clicks. The Nice Guys, a somewhat enjoyable mystery-comedy, feels more like a filmmaker doing an impression of the writer-director than the work of the man himself. First, an assessment of what makes Black’s work stand
Made popular in the 1930s and ’40s, gypsy jazz is in the middle of a renaissance, and Baltimore’s Michael Joseph Harris (left) is bringing it to the stage in two formations. His traditional band, Hot Club, relies on the classic repertoire, while Ultrafaux is guided by modern inspirations and
Countrified singer-songwriter Carl Anderson no longer calls Charlottesville home. He’s not planning to record his next album locally at White Star Sound, like he did his first one. And he no longer tours with a hometown band behind him. But for one night, he’ll make an exception. When Anderson
On a recent Saturday morning, C arrived at McGuffey Art Center to pose for a life drawing session held in an artist’s basement studio. She knew to expect a challenge. Robert Bricker, the artist running the session, posed C (not her real name) and another model together in a box with uneven
Philippe Garrel’s In the Shadow of Women, the Virginia Film Festival’s third installment of its year-round series, portrays work, home and love lives colliding. The veteran French new wave film director uses stark black-and-white cinematography to contrast a male versus female perspective on
Parquet Courts Human Performance (Rough Trade) In a “Kids in the Hall” skit, a sarcastic- sounding partygoer struggles to explain that his vocal tone is just a tragic defect, haplessly sneering, “Oh, no, I really want to be your friend!” Parquet Courts’ Andrew Savage might know the feeling. His
Right now, there’s a debate raging about the American dream. What does it look like? Who is it for? And what will we sacrifice in order to achieve it? The debate itself isn’t new. Art has always asked these questions. And Live Arts offers a poignant example with Dreamgirls, which caps off the
If you’ve so much as surfed past CNBC on your way to something actually worth watching, you’re no doubt familiar with the smugness of what might be called the financial entertainment industry. The most visible of this ilk is Jim Cramer of “Mad Money,” the apoplectic insider with his sleeves
Self-labeled as “a hippie with soul,” artist Allen Stone draws on personal experiences in the church choir and inspirations such as Stevie Wonder for his latest album, Radius, which emphasizes tight instrumentation of funk, pop and R&B influences with an air that is simultaneously
Rock poet David Tewksbury has worked the Charlottesville singer-songwriter circuit for years and issued a series of EPs. Now, with the help of longtime DMB collaborator Butch Taylor, he’s pulled together a band for his first full-length album, Sun is Rising. While composing the tracks on
As excited fourth-years take their final walk on the Lawn and up the portico steps of the recently refurbished Rotunda, they will no doubt be reflecting on their years at the University of Virginia. Just in the last school year, UVA has made headlines for scientific discoveries, Olympic
For some of the graduating UVA students who will walk the Lawn this weekend, it might be difficult to see any direct connections between a major and a future career. Many will receive a degree that provides an obvious path; others have chosen English or other courses of study that are, let’s
The multitalented Michael Clem steps away from his role as a member of Eddie From Ohio to host A Benefit for Jason Burke. Local acoustic musicians who will gather to help Burke with medical bills include Terri Allard, Thomas Gunn, Butch Taylor and Peyton Tochterman. Monday 5/16. $20 suggested
Eric Seidel spent the last 25 years bringing smiles and laughter to others as Recycle T. Clown, before cancer forced him to give up his act. A group of musicians, led by Megan Huddleston, unites to present Tin Can Alley, a carnival rock show featuring Mister Baby, American Girl, Shagwüf,
Various artists Studio One Showcase: The Sound of Studio One in the 1970s (Soul Jazz) The venerable Soul Jazz label has done the world yet another solid with this fantastic release featuring the Studio One record label. It’s almost impossible to overstate the centrality of Clement “Sir Coxsone”
The Charlottesville Festival of Cultures may be the simplest way to learn about the world. With more than 30 countries represented by local citizens and organizations, the event offers a glimpse into the art, food, music and languages in our diverse community. Saturday 5/14. Free, 10am. Lee
The world is a different place than it was eight years ago, when Iron Man launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s unprecedented ascendance to critical and commercial acclaim. Superhero movies, once seen as a pariah on the medium, have become the main cash cow for major studios. And we’re way