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Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) is a broken-down, hard-living country music singer with too many failed marriages, too long on the road and too reliant on whisky. Now on the road for a month with pick up bands, Bad meets Jean (Maggie Gyllenhall), a journalist and single mother who sees the real man behind the name. But the road to redemption is filled with pot-holes, especially when he is offered a gig as opening act for his former protégé Tommy (Colin Farrell) who has gone on to bigger and better things.

Review by Louise Keller:
Drunk, divorced and on the run, Jeff Bridges' unkempt, whisky-drinking country singing legend Bad Blake makes sure he lives up to his name. But he writes great songs. Songs whose lyrics reveal more about him than he would like to tell ('I used to be somebody', 'I don't know', 'Hello trouble'). Actor turned director Scott Cooper has adapted Thomas Cobb's novel with such great heart and understanding of not only the plight of a down and out entertainer, but the huge emotional journey he partakes. It's a terrific, satisfying film about redemption, with an outstanding performance by Bridges who allows us to live and breathe the aptly named Bad.

We get a taste of what life is like for Bad when we meet him, hot and sweaty with $10 in his pocket, on the dusty road, on his way to a bottom of the barrel gig in a bowling club. His reputation arrives before him: he is denied a bar tab. The liquor store is his first stop. There is always someone in the audience with a song request - even if Bad is puking out the back and not able to deliver it. There's also the mandatory sleepover with a 'girl' who has long lost her looks. Until he meets Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal), the journalist niece of the pianist in Santa Fe, with whom he agrees to an interview. He answers questions about his early influences, what he likes and the number of failed marriages. But he won't talk about kids, his real name or Tommy (a superb, uncredited Colin Farrell), his successful protégé to whom he taught everything. Gyllenhaal is perfectly cast as Jean, the catalyst for Bad. It's never too late, she tells him, when he apologises for disappointing her for his lack of 'country charm'.

There is vibrant immediacy to the film, enhanced by the buzzy live performances and candid, non flattering shots of Bridges as Bad as he drinks his life away. Of course the music and specially written songs (many by T Bone Burnett and the late Stephen Bruton) are supremely important and Bridges' vocal talents are tops as he sings and plays on his trusty Fender, on whose strap boldly displays the three letters of his name. The musos are no slouches either. Cooper manages to smoothly interweave the key plot lines so that we care passionately about them all: Bad's music career, his relationships (with Tommy and the son he hasn't seen since the boy was 4) and his romance with Jean. Everything feels very real. After all, music cuts through emotions easier than anything I know, and there's plenty of good music here.

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(US, 2009)

CAST: Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, James Keane, Anna Felix, Paul Herman, Tom Bower, Ryan Bingham, Beth Grant, Rick Dial

PRODUCER: T-Bone Burnett, Judy Cairo, Rob Carliner, Scott Cooper, Robert Duvall

DIRECTOR: Scott Cooper

SCRIPT: Scott Cooper (novel by Thomas Cobb)


EDITOR: John Axelrad

MUSIC: Stephen Bruton, T-Bone Burnett

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Waldemar Kalinowski

RUNNING TIME: 111 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 18, 2010

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