Arts Desk

This Week’s Film Reviews: Crazy Heart and the Final Performance of Heath Ledger

crazyheartAll a country song needs, the modern proverb goes, is three chords and the truth. In the case of Bad Blake, the truth ain't pretty. Jeff Bridges plays a washed-up, liquor-soaked former country star in Crazy Heart, which critic Tricia Olszewski reviews in this week's City Paper. She writes:

Bridges is generating Oscar talk, and rightly so. His performance never for a second feels like one: This character is thoroughly lived-in, from Bridges’ pro-level singing and stage presence to the wry, too-late-now attitude he brings to the character’s shitty life. Bad gets away with being an ass because of his former glory, but even when [Maggie] Gyllenhaal’s apparent Dorothy Hamill–haired madonna enters the picture, there’s not a total about-face. He may have found a new spark that puts him on his best behavior, but at his best he still drinks—and when Jean stops looking the other way, he mutters: “I don’t want to hear it” before driving off. And, surprisingly, the actors’ 28-year age difference doesn’t result in a queasy romance. Bad’s music, though out of style, keeps a nugget of him young, while Jean’s former bad decisions and life as a single mom lends her a weariness beyond her years, helping their attraction feel natural.

Also out this week is The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, director Terry Gilliam's latest carnivalesque fantasy—which contains the final performance of the late Heath Ledger. Olszewski writes:

[Colin] Farrell was a last-minute addition to the project, after Heath Ledger’s death prompted director Terry Gilliam to finish the film with Farrell, Johnny Depp, and Jude Law as rotating stand-ins for his deceased star. The shared-character trope has been jarring at worst (Palindromes) and odd at best (I’m Not There, the Bob Dylan biopic in which Ledger also played a fragmented role). Here, though, the transitions not only work but make sense in the context of Gilliam’s dense story about a magic man, his traveling road show, and a looking glass that transforms anyone who walks through it.

The conceit works, she writes—but the film as a whole, not so much. Read both reviews here.

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