Directed by Scott Cooper, Staring Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Though it doesn’t happen here very often, I really like to analyze movies. It was a practice I first learned in high school and later pursued in College film classes. Film is actually one of my favorite methods of story telling, and a good film also has great photography as well, something I quite enjoy. So, I try to watch a lot of movies. As of late though, this hasn’t been the case. I’ve been busy working on my house, so going out to the theaters or sitting in front of my TV with a rental has been a scarce activity. But last night I was hungry and needed to unwind, so I hit ye ole Red Box and got the Academy Award Winning film Crazy Heart. And after watching it, I can see why at first the industry was weary of this film, and then ultimately accepted it as one of it’s own. Of course, saying “rejected” for a film that still probably cost millions of dollars to make is a bit of a stretch, especially seeing as it was released by a fucking Fox affiliate.
Now, I love Jeff Bridges. He was in two of my all time favorite movies, Tron and The Big Lebowski. The man is a fine actor, and his performance as Bad Blake is spot on with these classic works. His face lends itself to the harsh, desert atmosphere, small clubs and shit venues as well as to the dilapidated hotel rooms he finds himself in. All of these places are caught beautifully by Cinematographer Barry Markowitz. In fact the scene in which Bad Blake is lounging in his crappy hotel room with Jane, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, is so rich in color and mood, it’s worth the price of admission just for those few seconds as the smoke twirls around the battered, but not beaten Jane.
But, as I get older and notice more repetition in film, I can’t help but be eagerly annoyed by the fact that this is another movie about an older, rugged man, and a younger woman who gives him salvation and ultimately leads him to redemption. And while the ending of the movie is less Hollywood and classic romance bullshit, why, why, WHY do we always have to see this relationship over and over again. Young women are not the way to salvation. And while the movie does a fairly good job of knocking the youth out of Gyllenhaal and showing her as a struggling, working mother, it just regurgitates the same, old story line. Reinforcing the ideal that older men are still sexy and older women are nothing but haggard throw aways, which both Beth Grant (TV’s Wonderfalls, and so many other small but penetrating roles. Woman is a Goddess, seriously) Debriana Mansini’s barfly characters portray. These one night stands of Bad Blake, with aged, star struck women is such a terrible ongoing theme in our culture these days, devaluing a woman as she ages. These minor characters are also a personification of the future that Jane has for her too, should she not settle down and find herself a man. After all she chases Bad to his hotel room at 1 A.M. despite a child with a babysitter at home.
I can’t condone this film, which is very difficult, because on so many other levels, it’s a great movie. But while it allows Bridges grace, its insistence on setting up women as broken creatures who age into haggard dispositions just doesn’t cut it for me anymore. The performances are Academy Award worthy, the music is brilliant, even the cinematography, non-obtrusive or slick, is subtle and beautiful. But we need to tell stories where people find salvation in themselves and stop devaluing the ladies as they age. That shit is just fucked.