Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Crazy Heart

I've mostly used this forum to write about films I like-- to promote good films people might not otherwise see, although not always. Because sometimes, as with Clint Eastwood, I just don't get it. Or I get something in a way I don't hear discussed elsewhere.

We went to see the movie Crazy Heart on Friday, mostly because we love Jeff Bridges, and since he was nominated for an Academy Award for the performance, we thought it would certainly be good. I didn't know much about the film, but it was easy to see from the broad outlines that Maggie Gyllenhaal was the love interest. I have to say, I liked her better before seeing her in this film. Maybe it was just the lack of chemistry between her and Bridges, or maybe it was the character I didn't much like, but her innocence was not at all convincing and she seemed a little silly and precious.

Jeff Bridges looks in the film a lot like Kris Kristofferson, and the songs he sings are somewhat like Kristofferson's. His character is mentor to a sexy, popular Country Western singer (played, oddly enough, by Colin Farrell, who can sing, but why?) who is the only person who seems to have real feelings for him. Their relationship, oddly, was the most convincing in the film.

I don't have much to say about the film-- it was flat, predictable and uninteresting. It was not moving. I had heard a few comparisons to The Wrestler, and so I spent time this weekend thinking about how it was not like The Wrestler. Then on Sunday night I saw Kris Kristofferson on Austin City Limits and I watched the whole half hour, and I found that really poignant, and found in that what I think this film could have been-- what it would have had to be to be like The Wrestler.

Kristofferson does not have much voice left. He was on stage with just a guitar and a harmonica rack. His playing is pretty pedestrian, which just draws attention to the heart of his music: the lyrics. He sang "Me and Bobby McGee" and though you can hear Janice Joplin behind every phrase, that made it somehow more powerful, too. The "not-Janice" quality of his simple singing and playing. He also sand "Help Me Make It Through the Night," his more famous solo number, opening with "Take the ribbon from your hair...."

When he got to the lines: "Yesterday is dead and gone / and tomorrow's out of sight / I don't care what's right or wrong" he paused ever so slightly and inserted insistently, "I do," and then finished: "Help me make it through the night."

That break in persona, break from the "outlaw" past, to say "I do," was really moving. He wants to sing what he believes, and in some ways he seemed a shell of what he was in the 1960s and '70s. But probably a really good man-- something to celebrate.

Somehow, a story about the man with a past and a few great songs who has been clean for years staying in crappy hotels and playing to little bar and bowling alley crowds who want to relive the glory days, trying to make family relationships work when he no longer has the mystique or the desire to keep up the mystique-- now THAT would have been an interesting movie. In a way, that's what The Wrestler was, the story of a man who wanted to be good and also live a lifestyle that had disappeared or no longer worked-- or in his case become more brutal and diminished. His piece of it was small and diminished, but it was all he knew how to do, and there was a poignancy and truth to that and it was much more significant than Bridges's character's binges and failures in Crazy Heart.

To read my thoughts on The Wrestler, click here.


WolfsGotYourTongue said...

a movie I would suggest, if you haven't already seen it, is the Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus -- it is a Terry Gilliam film, and is Heather Ledger's actual last part.. (Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell fill in the roll quite superbly).
It's the best movie I've seen in a long time.

Susan Sink said...

Thanks Giana. That is definitely on my list-- though films come slowly to my location. I love Terry Gilliam! There's a great documentary out there about his attempt to make a version of don Quixote with Johnny Depp. I think that might be back on-- it's a great movie about a disastrous film set and the film they were making was totally cool!

WolfsGotYourTongue said...

Thank you! I'll have to check it out.