Otis "Bad" Blake is a down-and-out, washed up country music star, reduced to playing bowling alleys and small town bars, before he is offered a chance of redemption in the form of both a new relationship with a young journalist, Jean, and the renewal of the professional relationship with his protege, Tommy Sweet, a country music sensation.
This film is all about Jeff Bridges. He delivers a pretty near perfect performance as "Bad" Blake, an alcoholic, washed up country music singer/songwriter. Everything about his performance; from the dialogue he delivers with perfect pace to the small nuances which helped create a thoroughly believable character, and not forgetting the surprisingly excellent musical performances where Bridges not only plays guitar and sings like somebody who's been doing it for decades, but at the same time delivers an acting performance, depicting a tired alcoholic country singer, that is simply second to none. Take Mickey Rourke's intricate and emotional performance in 'The Wrestler' as Randy "The Ram" Robinson, combine it with Joaquin Phoenix's confident performance in 'Walk the Line' as Johnny Cash and add Jeff Bridges' natural enthusiasm and above-standard ability and you start to get some idea as to why Jeff Bridges went home with the Academy Award for Best Actor (finally) on Sunday night.
As for the rest of the cast, Maggie Gyllenhaal delivers everything she needs to as best as she can. Unfortunately, it's just not that good. Don't get me wrong, she tries, she really does. The problem is she just doesn't seem to be able to connect with her characters. Every emotion seems the same and every line delivery seems the same as well. It's only when scenes are hyper-emotional like when she learns her son has gone missing in a crowded mall or when she refuses Blake entry to her house that she is able to deliver SOME emotion, but not as much as it seems to be. It's hard to tell whether she's made to look better by Jeff Bridges or whether she's completely out-acted. No matter what, she's forced to take a back seat to 'The Dude'. Colin Farrell turning up as Tommy Sweet was a surprise, it's the cameo you don't hear about - I compare it to Bill Murray turning up in 'Zombieland': It makes the entire cinema audience whisper his name in hushed excitement. As a southern country singer though, Colin seems to be wrestling with the accent too much to be able to deliver a performance for a character who's supposed to be better than "Bad" Blake. He's not, and it's painfully clear too.
The film overall is very up and down. It's depiction of a washed-up alcoholic country star going through the twilight of his career is very good, but it just seems as if the film is trying to do too much with the little time it has: Blake gets a girlfriend, Blake's playing concerts, Blake's working for Tommy, Blake's trying to sober up, Blake's holding grudges, Blake's forgiving people. Jeff's been made to work hard to try and get everything down, but he pulls it off, and does it with real style too. The direction is nothing special, but it doesn't need to be, the acting performances say everything that needs to be said for this film. Oh, and not forgetting the music, which is superbly written and fits "Bad" Blake's persona and style of performance perfectly. Listen to 'The Weary Kind' and you'll understand why it won Best Original Song on Sunday as well.
Last year, Mickey Rourke delivered an acting performance in 'The Wrestler' which immediately made that film one of my favourite films of all time. This year, Jeff Bridges has done exactly the same. Mickey and Jeff have proved one thing without a doubt: Old school's cool.