Year Released: 2009
Directed by: Scott Cooper
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Duvall, Colin Farrell
(R, 111 min.)
Academy Awards (2010)
Actor in a Leading Role: Jeff Bridges
"I used to be somebody. Now I’m somebody else." T Bone Burnett & Stephen Bruton
This film has everything you love about country music, except the clichés. It’s a picture of the soft slide from fame – weariness and cheap whiskey, regrets and ratty hotels, a glamorous past and grungy gigs.
Jeff Bridges owns the film. He is worn out country western singer Bad Blake, from his scraggly beard and bleary eyes, right down to his settled paunch and friendly glass of whiskey.
The opening scene says it all. Bad, driving his ’78 Suburban, pulls into a parking lot. He gets out with the stiff-backed bow legged posture that tells without words of the hours behind the wheel. And just in case we wonder about any of the details of the trip, he takes out his one-gallon plastic water jug, and empties the amber contents into the parking lot. So much for restroom stops.
Then we pan to the building and see it’s a bowling alley. How the mighty have fallen. Even more humiliating to find he can’t run a tab at the bowling alley’s bar and that smoking is not allowed inside. Thank goodness the local liquor store owner is a fan, since Bad has already spent his road allowance, and he seems unable to perform without the glass of whiskey at his side.
His one-time protégé, Tommy Sweets (played by an uncredited Colin Farrell) however, has hit the big-time, a subject he refuses to discuss when aspiring journalist Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal) asks.
Imbued with determination and good looks, this modern day Louis Lane has given up on looking for superman, however, and seems strangely attracted by the grubby guitarist twice her age. She sees something in him Bad has forgotten he even had, the touch of grace from which he has fallen.
Of course the set up for the unlikely love story has all the sentimental country chords of the twanging variety, but the story, just like Bad’s music, is the real thing. Just as The Blind Side was saved from any saccharin depths by its saucy star, so Bridges’ authenticity anchors Crazy Love. The fact that he is in real life a serious musician, having taken up the guitar at age 14, singing the original lyrics written for him by T Bone Burnett and Austin’s own Stephen Bruton, brings the film to a new level of artistic pleasure.
The words and music ring true, even in the case of a song Bad plays for Jean. “Do you remember this one?” he asks.
“I think so, from way back,” she ventures, only to read his twinkle to mean that he has just written it. That’s the way with the best of songs, he tells her. You seem to remember them, even if they’re brand new.
Well, the opposite is true here. Here is the oldest of stories, but in Jeff Bridges’ hands, it seems fresh and new.
As was true with Bella, the background of its filming is just as much of a tale as well. Some say the two singers, Bad Blade and Tommy Sweets, “two musicians whose lives charted divergent paths, one leading to multimillion-selling albums, the other hewing closer to the hardscrabble life on the outskirts of fame,” (Randy Lewis) is a parallel for the two songwriters, the well-known T Bone Burnett and his lesser known childhood friend, Stephen Bruton.
Just two weeks after completing the original music they wrote for the film, Bruton lost his two-year battle with cancer. Many here in Austin will remember his many performances at the Saxon Pub in South Austin, and they may even recognize his aging Suburban on screen. The mobile restroom, in the form of a the plastic water jug – a Sparketts bottle to be precise – was also Burton’s contribution. Bruton also suffered for many years with the bottle, but had been sober for some 20 years before his death.
Still another memorable feature is Colin Farrell’s turn as Tommy Sweets, Bad’s protégé who has hit the lights while Bad’s candle flickers. First of all, instead of making Tommy into an ungrateful stereotype, he is played as a pretty decent guy, just as weary from the life of fame as Bad is from its shadow. Their duet, filmed at a Toby Keith concert, features both their real voices. It turns out the Irishman has some singing creds, too. And reality overturns fiction here, where the humble Farrell bows out of screen credit to Bridges, not wanting to eclipse him.
This is that quiet little gem that sneaks into theaters on little cat paws. But it’s a tiger all right. Catch it by the tail.
When Bad finds out that Jean has a four year old son, he is not at all put off. Instead, he welcomes the chance to spend time with him, remembering perhaps what he has missed with his own now estranged boy.
Buddy takes to Bad like gravy does to biscuits, which is why Bad’s homemade variety goes over so well. We learn his secret ingredient, too, cream of tartar. I’ve made sure my recipe for Bad Blake Biscuits has it.
You might also enjoy these two recipes. The Ring of Fire Biscuits are from Walk the Line, another story about love and music, with the leads doing all their own singing as well.
Bad Blake Biscuits
- 3 c. flour (sifted)
- 5 tsp. cream of tartar
- 2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- 5 tbsp. Crisco
- 1 to 1 1/4 c. milk
Sift together dry ingredients. Add Crisco. Crumble together. Pour in milk. Stir. Spoon on floured board. Use a bit of this flour to knead your dough. Roll out 1/2 inch thick. Cut out with biscuit cutter. Place in greased pan. Dab a small piece of Crisco on each biscuit. Bake 18 minutes at 400 degrees until golden brown.
Recipe Source: Cooks.com