So, the sexy young reporter asks, "Where do all these songs come from?"
"Life, unfortunately," Bad Blake growls.
As a boozing, down-but-not-quite-out country singer, the great Jeff Bridges delivers another unfussy, offhand performance of such depth and truth that one must ask, "Why has this man never won an Oscar?"
Maybe this year, with his flawless turn in Crazy Heart, the Academy to remedy that after nominating him Tuesday for best actor.
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"Bad" is 57, bitter, broke, a has-been who still cares enough to perform, still takes pains to be civil to his fans but is too far into the bottle to write the great songs that made him famous. We meet him in Pueblo, Colo., fresh off the road from Clovis, N.M., about to play a bowling alley with another pick-up band of kids more committed to his music than he is. He curses his agent, insults the folks who book him and keeps so much whiskey in his system that it's a wonder he can take the stage, much less flee it to vomit into a trash can out back.
And Bridges, with every perfect gesture, embodies this guy, never more than when he fishes around that trash can for the sunglasses that fell off as he threw up.
Maggie Gyllenhaal, nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actress, gives a needy, wary glow to the single-mom, small-town reporter who takes a cautious tumble with her interview subject. Colin Farrell, who, like Bridges, sings and plays in the film, is delightful as the former sideman who is now a huge country star and trying to do right by his resentful mentor.
Photographed with skill by Barry Markowitz and directed with sympathy and spare precision by adapter-director Scott Cooper, who grew up in Somerset, it's a movie as richly rewarding as a great country song even as it tumbles into overly familiar country music subjects.
This film, adapted from Thomas Cobb's novel, mimics Tender Mercies, the alcoholic-country-singer-redeemed-by-a-good-woman drama that won Robert Duvall an Oscar in 1984. Duvall plays an old crony of Bad's and is a producer on Crazy Heart.
But this is Bridges' show, and he delivers with every gesture, every line reading. Drunk as he is, Bad is chivalrous enough to apologize "for bein' less than you probably imagined me to be." Bridges sells that line, and it would be a hard woman, even if she is too young for him, who wouldn't melt on hearing it.
This performance reminds us that Bridges is that rare actor who has never had to make that apology. Crazy Heart lets him be every bit as grand as we'd hope him to be.