15 years had changed the man. Drastically.
A few nights ago, I finally had the chance to rent Crazy Heart, in which Bridges plays the aging alcoholic former country star Bad Blake. Traveling from town to town, playing in bowling alleys and hotel bars, Bad is a shadow of the star he once was, struggling to make ends meet, barely able to afford the liquor that he craves and loves most.
Until he meets Jean. A lovely young journalist, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, divorced and raising a 4-year-old son on her own, she interviews Bad Blake, and the two end up unable to resist one another. With Jean's love buoying him, Bad attempts to turn his life around, by trying to make amends with his own son whom he's been estranged from for 24 years, and by trying to help out with Jean's son Buddy as much as he can. However, alcoholism doesn't just go away overnight, and their relationship is put to the test when Bad can't stop drinking and puts Buddy's safety in jeopardy.
So what did I think of the movie? Meh. Kind of slow-moving. And I had a hard time believing someone young and pretty like Jean would fall for an old soak like Bad, no matter how desperate she was, and no matter how famous he once was. (And yes, I do remember how hot Jeff Bridges was in White Squall. But he carries none of that in Crazy Heart. He looks like the kind of old drunk you might find sitting on a bar stool at Gavan's at noon. On a Monday.)
But the music...Oh, the music. I looooove the soundtrack. I downloaded it the next day, and can't stop listening. Bridges does most of the singing - and who knew he had such a smooth, earthy voice? But the bigger surprise was Colin Farrell. That's right, Colin Farrell! Lookin' kind of goofy in a long pony-tail, but sounding amazing, Farrell plays Tommy Sweet, Bad Blake's protege who's star has risen above and beyond his mentor's. One of my favourite scenes in the movie is when Bad is forced to open for Tommy at a huge festival, and Tommy joins him on stage for one of his songs. Both actors could have a singing career too if they wanted!
The concert scenes in the movie were my favourite parts. The songs are a throwback to the days of Haggard, Jennings, Kristofferson, and Jones (the character of Bad Blake is based loosely on some of those very legends), and they are really catchy country tunes with an old-school flavour. Because the audience hears Bad's "hits" several times throughout the movie, by the end, "Hold on You" and "I Don't Know" are instantly familiar, and just try to get "Fallin' and Flyin'" out of your head - it's impossible.
As you all know, musical discoveries are one of my biggest thrills, so of course I was ecstatic to find a new favourite in Ryan Bingham. He has a small part in the film, playing Tony, the leader of one of Bad's back-up bands as he rolls from town to town. While on-stage at that show, Bad has to stumble off to be sick, and Tony picks up singing "I Don't Know" for him. That scene stood out to me - I loved the guy's voice. After doing some research, I found out that not only does Bingham play the role of Tony, he also sings that song on the soundtrack, along with the movie's theme song and Oscar winner for Best Original Song, "The Weary Kind". In the movie, it's the song Bad eventually writes, and calls his best song ever.
In real life? Ryan Bingham wrote it himself. So cool.
(PS - Yeah. He's hot.)
The songs alone are worth seeing the movie for. And Bridges is excellent as Bad Blake, highly deserving of his Academy Award for Best Actor. If you like old country, it's definitely worth checking out!