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dir-scr Scott Cooper
prd T Bone Burnett, Judy Cairo, Rob Carliner, Scott Coope, Robert Duvall
with Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, Jack Nation, Tom Bower, James Keane, William Marquez, Ryan Bingham, Paul Herman, Annie Corley, Beth Grant
release US 16.Dec.09, UK 19.Feb.10
09/US Fox 1h55
a rather intimate interview: Bridges and Gyllenhaal
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
Like Tender Mercies, which won an Oscar for producer-costar Duvall, this film feels like the cherry on top of Jeff Bridges' fine career, giving him a terrific character who carries us through a fairly straightforward story of regret and redemption.
Bad Blake (Bridges) is a successful 57-year-old musician whose career and personal life have been derailed by alcoholism. Playing to bowling alleys and bars across New Mexico, he's interviewed by a journalist Jean (Gyllenhaal) and is surprised when a spark of attraction develops between them. His next stop is Phoenix, where he plays a gig with former band member Tommy Sweet (Farrell), who's now a mega-star but hasn't forgotten the debt he owes to Bad. The question is whether Bad can get himself together long enough to make either relationship work.
Bridges fully inhabits this character as he transforms himself into a Kris Kristofferson-like figure--wry and sardonic with a charming twinkle in his eye even as he's wondering where he'll get his next drink. His interaction with the other characters is wonderfully prickly and warm, both in his history-laden relationships with old pals like Tommy and Wayne (Duvall) and as he discovers something new with Jean and her young son Buddy (Nation).
And the supporting cast is also terrific, most notably Farrell, who makes the most of a fairly thin role. And the songs by T Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton are real stunners; they feel like timeless classics and also manage to give us superb insight into the characters. Although in some ways this is the only insight we really get; besides the excellent acting and the strong song score, the film's script is a somewhat simplistic (and familiar) story about a man on the verge of oblivion who begrudgingly discovers a reason to live.
But it's still a great story that has resonance as it encourages us to look into our own lives as well. Writer-director Cooper keeps things simple and unaffected, never shying away from the quietly telling moment and vividly capturing the geography (both physical and emotional) of the American Southwest. And most importantly, he's given Bridges a role that will no doubt weigh down his mantelpiece with awards.
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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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