My Valentine’s weekend plans included a lovely dinner and a heaping dose of romantic comedy (via the star-studded “Valentine’s Day”) with my wife. What I got instead was an alcoholic country crooner in “Crazy Heart,” and a seat in a crowded theater, rubbing elbows with someone who actually smelled like Bad Blake looked.
My Valentine’s weekend plans included a lovely dinner and a heaping dose of romantic comedy (via the star-studded “Valentine’s Day”) with my wife.
What I got instead was an alcoholic country crooner in “Crazy Heart,” and a seat in a crowded theater, rubbing elbows with someone who actually smelled like Bad Blake looked.
Two sick kids at home meant my V-Day date with my wife had to be postponed a week – though we did have our special dinner, take-out-style.
Look for my review of something romantic next week – that is, unless these parents’ plans have to be postponed again. With kids, every day is a plot twist of its own.
At a theater near you
The best compliment you can give a movie about music or a musician is that it makes you want to buy the soundtrack.
Unable to get the songs of “Crazy Heart” out of my head, I went straight from the theater into Wal-Mart and bought the album. It's been playing non-stop on my iPod for three straight days.
Though I don’t listen to much of it these days, I grew up on country music – the likes of Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, George Jones and Willie Nelson. It's in my blood, I suppose, sort of like an often-dormant infection that causes me to breakout occasionally in a hillbilly rash.
I got the itch in a bad way watching Jeff Bridges as broke-down boozer Bad Blake in “Crazy Heart.”
Bridges is a shoo-in for the Best Actor Oscar – he’s already won a Golden Globe, a Screen Actors Guild Award and Critics Choice Award for the role.
But I can't help but wish this wasn’t a role – that Bridges was Bad – because that’d be a concert I’d queue up for.
This character wasn’t born Bad, he admits, and when he dies, his tombstone will bear his real name. Until then, he’s just going to be Bad.
It certainly seems true, as the film’s tagline states, “the harder the life the sweeter the song.”
And Bad Blake has cranked out his fair share of sweet songs.
Run-down and reduced to playing dives and bowling alleys, he hasn't written a new one in years. He rambles from town to town in his faithful, rust-colored Silverado suburban, mostly in a drunken haze, until he meets Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a small-time reporter whose piano-playing uncle backs up Bad in a bar gig, and her 4-year-old son, Buddy.
Gyllenhaal wants a juicy scoop – and probes him on topics he’d rather avoid, like how he feels about the sensational success of his former apprentice, Tim-McGraw-esque Tommy Sweet (played by Colin Farrell).
But Bad would rather talk about how he never realized how bad his dingy hotel room looked until she walked into it.
Running on empty, Bad has a chance to refuel by writing some new material for Sweet. And it soon becomes apparent that his unconventional -- and unsustainable -- romance with the 25-years-younger Jean is music in motion.
Robert Duvall, a producer on the film, plays a bar owner and Blake’s faithful friend, who's there to lift him up when he hits rock bottom.
For background singers, Duvall, Gyllenhaal and Farrell are all top-notch.
But the spotlight’s squarely on the headliner, Bridges, and by the end, you’ll want to flick your Bic and shout “Encore!”
Before Jeff Bridges was Bad, he was the Dude.
After witnessing the actor's tour de force in “Crazy Heart” this week, I had high hopes for the latest from the brothers who directed him in “The Big Lebowski” back in 1998.
The Coens – Ethan and Joel – have created some truly unique characters and told some terrific – and terrifically odd – stories on the big screen since their 1985 debut, “Blood Simple.”
Among my favorites, in chronological order:
- H.I. and Ed McDunnough (Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter) as the hapless baby snatchers – and John Goodman as the sewage-spelunking escaped con – in 1987’s “Raising Arizona.”
- Poindexter playwright Barton Fink – and the psychotic traveling salesman played by John Goodman – in 1991’s “Barton Fink.”
- Hula-hoop inventor Norville Barnes (Tim Robbins) in the hilariously hokey “Hudsucker Proxy” (1994).
- Pregnant, folksy, “don-cha-know” police chief Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) investigating a kidnapping scam that turns brutal in 1996’s “Fargo.”
- The bowling league of The Dude (Bridges), Walter (Goodman), Donny (Steve Buscemi) and Jesus (John Turturro) in “The Big Lebowski.”
- Everett (George Clooney), Pete (Turturro) and Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson) as the Soggy Bottom Boys in 2000’s “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” And don’t forget “Cyclops” Big Dan Teague (Goodman) in this adventure inspired by Homer’s Odyssey.
- Chain-smoking barber Ed Crane, his cheating wife (McDormand) and star lawyer Freddy Riedenschneider (Tony Shaloub) in the 2001 black-and-white film noir “The Man Who Wasn’t There.”
- Southerner and criminal (not-so) mastermind Prof. G.H. Dorr (Tom Hanks) and his band of petty thieves in “The Ladykillers” (2004).
- Creepy killer for hire Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), the man he’s hunting (Josh Brolin) and the man who aims to stop him (Tommy Lee Jones) in the 2007 film based on Cormac McCarthy's book “No Country for Old Men.”
- And, finally, dim-witted gym trainers Chad (Brad Pitt) and Linda (McDormand), philanderer Harry (Clooney) and CIA man (John Malkovich) in the twisty-turny “Burn After Reading” (2008).
Not among them: The whiny, push-over Jewish math professor Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg), his inept live-in brother (Richard Kind) or his wanderlust wife (Sari Lennick) of “A Serious Man,” the movie I watched this week on DVD.
The Coen brothers have called this their most personal project, likely because it culls from their own childhoods spent in Hebrew school and watching their parents suffer through matrimony.
It's not personal for me, and not particularly interesting either.
The film opens on a Hebrew fable about a man who meets a rabbi on his road home and invites him in – to the behest of his wife, who swears to the fact that this rabbi is dead, and their visitor some kind of ghost or ghoul.
My interest was piqued.
Then, it slides into a 1970s Midwestern suburb and the lives of the Gopniks.
From there, it’s all yadda-yadda-Yiddish to me.
Something I do relate to: Being a wimpy kid in middle school.
And the trailer for the live-action adaptation of the illustrated novel, “Diary of A Wimpy Kid,” due in theaters March 19, looks painfully familiar.
Remember being assured by clueless adults about your most humiliating childhood memories, “You’ll look back on this someday and laugh”?
Has that someday finally arrived?
Guess we’ll see.
Robert McCune is editor of The Independent in Massillon, Ohio. E-mail him at Robert.McCune@IndeOnline.com or call 330-775-1124.