I know I’m a bit behind the curve here, but I recently saw a film that has a lot to say about the life of an artist and the role of music in reflecting life’s emotional roller coaster. The film is “Crazy Heart,” and it tells the story of the rather washed-up country-western singer Bad Blake (played by Jeff Bridges), whose life is changed by meeting Jean (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal). This movie has already received its share of accolades: Jeff Bridges won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Bad Blake, and the song “The Weary Kind,” which plays a central role in the story, won the Oscar for Best Original Song. Here’s the official trailer:
Of course, I think you should watch this movie, and I suspect it could make a great film for a movie event at a senior living facility, especially with folks who enjoy country music. Without spoiling it for you, here are a few of the themes that play a part in this movie:
The absolute havoc alcoholism wreaks on a person’s life. Alcoholism has been depicted by Hollywood before, but this film does a particularly good job of showing just how bad life can look at the bottom, when addiction to alcohol is ruining a man’s life.
The role of alcoholism in country music. Heavy drinking and general hard living are, to some extent, part of the country music lifestyle, especially for artists from its earlier, less-commercialized days. In fact, music reflects the culture of which it is a part, and that often includes reflecting certain destructive behavior patterns (e.g. country music and alcoholism, electronic music and use of hallucinogenic drugs, gangsta rap music and violence). The problem is this: when you’re a country star, and singing about heavy drinking and hard living is what you do, how can you make a healthy lifestyle change?
Music as a commodity while still being of personal significance. An interesting side story in this film is Bad Blake’s relationship with his one-time protege Tommy Sweet. While Bad is now at the bottom of his professional career, Tommy is popular and successful, and he wants to perform new songs written by Bad. As it happens, Bad’s songs, in which he pours all of the triumph and pain of his life experiences, make a lot of money. That the art created from so much personal strife is sold with someone else as the face of the product seems odd to me, but it is true to the world of popular music. (Am I the only one who thinks that is strange?)
The beauty of music created by someone with life experience. In any case, I think Bad’s songs are most beautiful when they are sung by Bad. That wisdom gained on the road of life comes through not only in the lyrics and music of the composition, but also in the performance given by the singer. I think there is a special beauty in the music of a person who has a lifetime of experiences. This is true of Glen Campbell, as discussed a couple of days ago, and it is true of Bad Blake in this film.
Any of these themes are great to discuss in a group or just to ponder on your own as you watch this movie. Have you seen “Crazy Heart” yet? What did you think?