It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Some actors are blessed. Jeff Bridges is one of them. Ever since his breakthrough role in "The Last Picture Show" in 1971, he has, seemingly without effort, created a series of characters who we simply believe, even the alien "Starman." He doesn't do this with mannerisms but with their exclusion; his acting is as clear as running water. Look at him playing Bad Blake in "Crazy Heart." The notion of a broke-down, boozy country singer is an archetype in pop culture. We've seen this story before. The difference is, Bad Blake makes us believe it happened to him.
That's acting. There's a line of dialogue in the movie that I jotted down at the time, and it's been cited by several critics. Bad Blake is being interviewed in his shabby motel room by Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a newspaper reporter. She's taking him, gently, to places he doesn't want to go. He's been interviewed about the subject too many times. He doesn't say that. He says, "I want to talk about how bad you make this room look."
It's such a good line I can hardly believe I've never heard it before. Bad Blake perhaps knows it sounds like something out of an old movie. It's also the kind of line written by a singer-songwriter, the masking of emotion by ironic displacement, the indirect apology for seedy circumstances. She blushes. I can't think of a better way for the movie to get to where it has to go next. No shy apologies. No cynicism. Just that he wrote a great line of a country song, and it was for her.
Bridges, Gyllenhaal and Scott Cooper, the first-time writer-director, find that note all through the movie. It's like a country-western cliche happening for the first time. Bridges doesn't play drunk or hung over or newly in love in the ways we're accustomed to. It's like Bad has lived so long and been through so much that he's too worn out to add any spin to exactly the way he feels.