29 August 2011 | Pedro_H
Only Jeff Bridges could shine with this basic and shop-worn material.
"Bad" Blake (Jeff Bridges) was once a famous country singer-songwriter (although how big and how famous are never clearly spelt out), but he has now slid to the very bottom of the greasy music pole: now a reluctant opening act or playing small shows in bowling alleys or suchlike dingy places.
Age, booze and multiple divorces have taken further toll on his mind and body. Today, he rarely thinks much beyond his next drink or resting his weary bones in the nearest - and preferably cheapest - motel.
In to this paint-peeling world comes a hint of genuine love and affection, courtesy of a much younger single-mother (and professional music journalist) Jean Craddock played by Maggie Gyllenhaal.
There is not a lot of originality about this production. Indeed it might be viewed as an attempt to re-film The Wrestler in Stetson hats, where it not for Bridges. Talk about carrying a show on your shoulders. Although it does beg the question of how simplistic/basic country music is when an actor (with only very occasional musical forays to his name) can be so convincing.
(Clever pastiche songs being a great aid to the believability.)
Despite the negative opening headlines, things are not totally hopeless. Musical friends and agent are loyal. Dues are owed and paid. Indeed there seems to be ladies (of a certain age, granted) who, still, want to entertain the former legend back in their rooms. Yes, even the bottom of the showbiz barrel seems to have its freebies and its perks. When sober enough to actually enjoy them, that is.
In many ways the act or review - and therefore after-the-fact analysis - takes some shine off this drift-down-the-river production. Indeed only re-enforces how little there is to chew on.
Craddock has to be either mad or desperate to to take an interest in this long broken down musical artist who is not only old enough to be her father, but only one false step away from being a vagrant. What does she see in him? Is she so seduced by the romance of low-rent showbiz to see he is totally selfish (he has, for example, long taken no interest in his own child) and lives in the past?
Maybe Bridges should milk this a bit - go on stage as his alter-ego Bad Blake. I am sure people would be happy to see it. Clearly he is good enough and the professional and functional songs on display here would pass twenty minutes of general inspection.