(out of 5)
Tender Mercies, Hedwig And The Angry Inch and The Wrestler have been combined in this indie vehicle for Jeff Bridges, and though that description sounds like the kiss of death, it’s completely the opposite: this film proves that sometimes a formula is how you make something great. Its familiarity and well-worn themes only support the pleasure of the experience as Bridges plays a washed-up, has-been country singer whose days are now spent travelling alone in a pickup truck to flea-bitten venues, performing his old hits (which are all marvelous, the soundtrack is superb) when he’s not too drunk to sing. Meanwhile, the young whippersnapper he mentored to stardom (Colin Farrell) plays stadiums using Bridges’ songs and techniques. Opportunities for redemption soon find their way to our hero when Farrell looks him up to collaborate on a lucrative new venture, and the love of a sweet young single mother (Maggie Gyllenhaal) gives him a reason to go on. Will he make good on these chances, or will he throw it away as he has done before? We know that Bridges is going to be self-destructive and washed-up, and we know just by looking at Gyllenhaal’s face that she’s going to be broken and vulnerable, but Bridges plays this character right down to his wrinkles, and belts out the gorgeous songs with a whiskey-soaked passion that finds its way into your heart. Look for a short but lively appearance by Robert Duvall (speaking of Tender Mercies), and note that Farrell impressively does his own warbling.
Directed by Scott Cooper
Screenplay by Scott Cooper, based on the novel by Thomas Cobb
Cinematography by Barry Markowitz
Music by Stephen Bruton, T Bone Burnett
Production Design by Waldemar Kalinowski
Costume Design by Doug Hall