Dec 16, 2009|
(USA) Not a great film this; and it would have been worse—far, far worse—had Jeff Bridges not clocked in with perhaps the best performance of his career. Comparisons with The Wrestler are apt; both feature washed-up has-beens on a comeback trail of sorts.
We fear this may be becoming a trend (erstwhile stars of the late eighties getting a second wind behind their backs, propelling them all the way to Hollywood awards season); god knows what next year has in store: Bill Murray as a forgotten movie star who ends up making commercials in Japan? Oh…
Anyways, where The Wrestler was gritty, brutal and unsentimental, director Scott Cooper charts a Hollywood-safe path with this tale about Bad Blake, a one-time country music legend scraping around the bottom of the barrel. To earn a living, this one-time star now has to resort to playing in ratty dive bars and bowling alleys—which amusingly recalls two of Bridges better films, The Fabulous Baker Boys and The Big Lebowski.
Bad is lonely and sick (he drinks so much that each performance of his is punctuated by a time-out to spew his guts), estranged from his only son, tormented by the mega success of his mentee, played by Colin Farrell, and has $11 left to his name. He eats food from a box and has to depend on freebies for his alcoholic fix. And Bridges is stunning in his portrayal of this broken man wallowing in utter squalor, with absolute scene-stealing electricity.
But the happier parts of the story turn this into a corn-filled melodrama. Maggie Gyllenhaal appears as coy journalist and they fall for each other—with bedroom scenes and all. What? Not that washed-up after all, huh. Bad’s career soon gets a fillip; he thaws the relationship with his old young friend and tours with him (Farrell is goofily convincing); and even attends AA meetings with the help of his wise friend, played by the mesmeric Robert Duvall.
The excellent killer country-music soundtrack is yet another salving balm for this film, which unfortunately doesn’t match the powerful individual performances within it.