I went to see one of those frou-frou, artsy fartsy type movies with my friend Lubbock last weekend. This meant that we went to the Arbor Regal Cinema where I circled around for approximately twenty minutes before I could find a parking spot.
If you want to see an independent film that will be the slightest bit original or cause you to think, this is usually the only game in town. There’s also the Dobie and sometimes the Alamo Drafthouse, but The Arbor is usually where you go, surrounded by the too cool and the post-millennium yuppies.
The movie is called Crazy Heart, and it stars Jeff Bridges, Colin Farrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Robert Duvall. It’s about a down on his luck, fifty-seven year old alcoholic country singer who was a big success once upon a time. The music is exceptionally good, if you like country music.
Jeff Bridges (who is totally the King of Cool and can be my best friend if he wants to be (Call me!)) plays the drunk, Bad Blake. Yes, Bad is his name. That is how effortlessly cool Jeff Bridges is.
The movie is like a cross between Tender Mercies and A Star is Born, with a little Twenty Eight Days thrown in at the end. Bridges is a dead ringer for Kris Kristofferson throughout the whole movie, which might be the only reason I referenced A Star is Born, since I’ve never actually seen that movie. It shows the unseemly side of the music business, what living on the road is really like for the majority of artists who choose to make their living through music.
Since it is the story of an alcoholic, there are the requisiste scenes of debauchery and one night stands, drunk driving and car accident, cold sweats, pass outs and projectile vomiting. By the time the movie opens he’s already hit pretty close to rock bottom, and we get to see him gain a little foothold in hope with the much younger and incredibly lovely Maggie Gylenhaal character and her four-year-old son. The son, coincidentally, (wink, wink) is the same age of Bad’s own son when he abandoned him over twenty years before.
Then, of course, you see him lose the impossibly lovely woman and the adorable boy with a tragic mistake that’s no one’s fault but his own. In truth, it could have happened to anyone, but it had the bad luck to happen to Bad when he was drunk. You can see this plot point at the end of Act II coming a mile away, but that doesn’t make it any less moving.
As far as Bad’s redemption goes, you can spot that before it comes, too. The Robert Duvall character, a bar owner in Houston, is so obviously Bad’s patient recovering alcoholic friend, just waiting for that phone call. At one point in the movie, he comes into Bad’s house and finds him passed out on his bathroom floor, vomit in the toilet, whiskey bottle in hand, and calmly tells him to get up and get dressed ‘cause they’re going fishing. No reaction at all.
The movie does redeem the character of Bad. We see him get sober, and he writes a song that his former protégé, Tommy Sweet [Colin Farrell], records and makes into a big country hit, thus literally reversing Bad’s fortune. There is even a bittersweet reunion with the Maggie Gylenhaal character. But, like in real life, she didn’t wait for Bad to get his act together.
In real life, the alcoholic and her object of affection, who tells her he wants to rescue her, have a huge blow out and then the object of affection continues dating a younger, prettier, thinner woman who’s probably not smarter or funnier than the alcoholic but definitely less neurotic. Imagine if Miss Romania were the poster child for mental health, with a glass of sparkling bubbly in her hand. (Ahem! Did I just write that out loud?)
Oh, yeah. I was writing about the movie, Crazy Heart. In the movie, the Maggie Gyllenhaal character moves on with “a good guy” that we don’t get to see. But if there’s any poetic justice in this world, the good guy looks exactly like Matt Damon or Mark Wahlberg, with washboard abs. And he’s hung like a horse. Maybe there’s even an unrated director’s cut DVD with some soft corn porn scenes that got lost on the cutting room floor. Take that, Bad, you horrible, old, fat, miserable drunkard, you!
In this, at least, the movie gets it right. I mean, really, if you had a choice between Jeff Bridges, made up to look like Kris Kristofferson with twenty-five extra pounds of Haagen Daazs, and a much younger, prettier and thinner woman who’s your exact physical description of the ideal woman who stars in your every wet dream, who would you pick? Even I would pick Miss Romania, and I’m not a lesbian. It’s a no brainer.
Okay. That’s not really true. I would still pick Jeff Bridges, but that’s only because I’m not a man or a lesbian, but, hell, he’s Jeff Bridges! (Wait!! Did I get my life confused with the movie again? We’re talking about the movie, dammit! Oh, well, they probably get it. Assume your audience has some intelligence.)
This is probably what separates this little movie from a big budget Hollywood fantasy. In the big budget Hollywood fantasy, Bad would get the girl as well. In the independent movie, he doesn’t get the girl, but there’s denouement, there’s catharsis, there is closure. In real life, you move on and wish the object of your affection well. You probably never speak to him again.
After all, what’s the point? It won’t change anything. He’s not going to be able to say a single thing that will not be entirely too painful to hear. You can’t say anything that won’t make him feel like shit for doing nothing more than living his own life and finding his own happiness, something he’s perfectly entitled to pursue as a Constitutional right. And he can’t rescue you. With God’s help, you have to rescue yourself.
I would say that this movie is more realistic about what it’s like to be an alcoholic. But the truth is that it’s more like real life, period, sober or drunk, than a typical Hollywood fantasy. To paraphrase the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.” It’s just one of those things.