Thoughtful reviews, the Boulder film scene

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Winsor McCay -- The Master Edition

A new DVD offers an opportunity to see films by a master of animation —Andrea Birgers (DVD review...)

Gertie the Dinosaur, born of Winsor McCay

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There’s a certain appeal to the idea of Jeff Bridges — Lebowski, Starman, Tucker — playing a country singer (same goes for Irish-born Colin Farrell). Speaking on behalf of “the public” I want to see him try his hands at singing, and I want to see him succeed.

Lebowski, Starman, Tucker tries his hand at singing
Lebowski, Starman, Tucker tries his hand at singing

And Bridges and Farrell get up to sing, the filmed audience cheering along with them, it’s hard not to enjoy Bridges and Farrell as if they were Brooks and Dunn.

The Good, the Bad, and the Young

Crazy Heart is the old redemption story painted with a country-western motif. Bad Blake (Bridges) used to be big, but now he’s playing bowling alleys and half-empty bars. Meanwhile, his protégé Tommy Sweet (Farrell) is packing stadiums.

Bad meets a woman (Maggie Gyllenhaal) half his age. Jean is a reporter who wants to ask Bad what it was like working with Tommy, and in spite of that they hit it off. One thing: she doesn’t like him drinking around her 4-year-old son. What happens next is disappointingly predictable, made only somewhat fresher by the idea of Hollywood going country.

Bridges nails his character, grizzled by years of drinkin’, cussin’, and whorin’, but strangely he doesn’t have the voice to match. When he sings Bridges has a clear, bright tenor and he hits all the right notes. There’s no twang or gravel which belies the unshaved lion on the movie’s poster.

You might say the same about Farrell, but at least his character is supposed to be young, clean, and slickly produced. Farrell’s Tommy is cowed by Bridges’ cowboy. Offscreen, Tommy is the hottest thing in country music. But Bad joins him for every scene, and Farrell’s Tommy is meek and deferential to a fault.

What It’s Like to Be the Bad Man

(Spoliers ahead.) The film’s final disappointment comes when Bad hits his nadir. Reading the script, you’d understand that Bad lives down to his name, letting his alcoholic thirst trump his responsibility to Jean’s son. But as depicted in the film director Scott Cooper lets him off the hook. The boy simply disappears after Bad’s second sip. Yet the rest of the movie plays as though he had actually neglected the boy in a drunken stupor. Perhaps Bad was simply accepting responsibility, but it plays more like Cooper and Bridges didn’t want to besmirch our protagonist with a genuinely bad action.

There are likeable personalities in Crazy Heart and there is some fun in seeing an actor do his own singing. If you’re attracted by the poster or the casting or the music, give Crazy Heart a try. But don’t expect greatness from the man named Bad.