Jeff Bridges: My Manifesto

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To say “at last” or “finally” in regards to his tour de force performance as washed-up country/western star Bad Blake in Crazy Heart would be to completely disregard how uniformly superb he has been from the very start of his career. There is no “at last” here, at least not to those of us who have been paying attention. He has been turning in detailed, powerful, diverse performances for DECADES. The fact that he is so amazing in Crazy Heart is not a surprise. He is ALWAYS amazing. See my thoughts on this phenomenal actor, the best American actor working today (and on ANY day) here. Hyperbole is too good for this man. To quote Bruce Reid, a commenter at HSD:

You’re right about the inability to avoid hyperbole when it comes to Bridges; given his uniform excellence I thought it’d be easier to pick five bad performances and think about why they didn’t work. Till I scanned his filmography and found, maybe, three.

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Indeed. Like Meryl Streep, he has been consistently astonishing for his entire career. He also has rarely repeated himself. And it’s not about tricks, with him. He’s not trying to prove anything to anyone. He doesn’t need to prove he’s a great actor by putting on a limp, or a British accent. If the character limps, he limps so well that you can almost see the X-rays of the disjointed hip bones, it’s that convincing. If he has to have an accent, or a mannerism to go with the character, it becomes so endemic to the performance that it is unthinkable without it. His range is breathtaking. I do not sense much of an ego, with Jeff Bridges, and that’s probably why he’s shamefully flown under the radar for so long (while his reviews are always excellent, he’s more often than not ignored by the Academy). No nomination for Door in the Floor? Sorry, but that’s ridiculous. It was the best performance that year. Some of his best work as well, which means it’s better than anyone else’s good work, because he’s Jeff Bridges. I have a lot of thoughts about Bridges (again, go read my piece about him to see some of them), and also a lot of thoughts about ego and actors, but I’ll save that for another post I’m working on. I’ll touch on it briefly here.

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The lack of ego in Jeff Bridges is, in part, why I think he is such an incredible chameleon. But I don’t want to overstate this, because it’s not 100% true that actors who are NOT chameleons are somehow lesser actors. Katharine Hepburn wasn’t a chameleon. Angelina Jolie isn’t a chameleon. John Wayne wasn’t a chameleon. Also, having an EGO is not a bad thing for an actor (but again, I’ll save that for the other post – argh, it keeps creeping in). Ego helps actors do extraordinary things at times, if utilized correctly. It makes movie stars. But Jeff Bridges is that rare thing: a chameleon AND a movie star. A movie star AND a man with no obvious ego. If you put some of his performances up side by side (and I’m just cherry-picking here, you could just go through his career and do this yourself) – it is hard to find the similarities between ANY of them, except for the fact that the same man played them all. The Dude in The Big Lebowski and Starman. Played by the same guy? The racist sweet lonely Turner Kendall in The Morning After and the befuddled macho vaguely dumb Vernon Hightower in the awesomely funny Nadine? Same guy? Jack Kelson in American Heart and Preston Tucker in Tucker? Obadaiah Stane in Iron Man and Jack Lucas in The Fisher King? Throw in there Richard Bone in Cutter’s Way, the leather-pants-clad Lightfoot in the deeply bizarre and (as Mitchell has said) “offensive on so many levels” Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, his sea captain in White Squall, his creep-tastic serial killer in The Vanishing … on and on and on and on. Mix and match as you like, the results will be the same. He is off the charts versatile. But even “versatile” doesn’t quite cover it, because that seems to connote a “skill” (he can cry, he can laugh, he can play the guitar, he’s versatile!) but it goes deeper than that.

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I keep quoting myself in that other piece, and it’s so obnoxious, but I can’t help it. Shirley Maclaine spoke of working with Meryl Streep in Postcards from the Edge and her observation was that Streep “completely abdicates her own personality for that of the character’s”. This goes beyond SKILL as an actor. This is channeling. It is truly magic. Meryl Streep came and spoke at my school and she was quite inarticulate about acting, the greatest evidence (besides her work) that she is a genius. She got skittish about talking about the actual “hows” of it. Maybe talking about it would make it go away. Jeff Bridges obviously is a man out in the world who is things other than an actor. He is a husband, a father, a brother, an uncle … he’s a real guy with a real life, and he obviously has friends and family members who can say, “Oh, I know Jeff. Jeff is the type of guy who ….” But for us, out here in the movie darkness, we do not know who that is. He doesn’t let us see that. He’s in acting for another reason altogether. Maybe it’s a personal catharsis for him, to inhabit other people. Maybe it’s a way to satiate some curiosity, or some enduring questions about “what would it be like to …” I suppose he is revealed, as good acting always reveals something – but the channeling mechanism, the strength of the character he is playing – is always the filter through which we SEE him. If you only saw him as The Dude, you’d probably think he was always like that, it seemed so natural, so real. But then if you only saw The Door in the Floor, or Bad Company, or The Fisher King – if those were your only “meetings” with Bridges, then you’d think he was like THAT. It’s when you put them all together that you can see how truly extraordinary this man’s talent is.

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We all have many sides, many selves. Bridges knows how to “conduct” himself, as in – pointing to the oboe when he needs it, gesturing to the string section when that is what is called for – and he knows how to let all else subside. The humor that was in The Dude is totally submerged when he plays Bad Blake in Crazy Heart. Or Jack Baker in The Fabulous Baker Boys, one of the sour-est crankiest leading men in film history (second only to Cary Grant’s Geoff Carter in Only Angels Have Wings). And so, with this give and take with his own innate qualities, Bridges is a maestro of his own talent. So many actors – very fine actors – can’t even come close to doing that. He’s on another level. I love how mysterious it is, and also how uninterested he appears to be in it. He does what he does. But again, he has nothing to prove.

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I think one of the greatest performances ever given by an American actor is by Jeff Bridges in American Heart, and while it was a critical success, it obviously wasn’t a commercial success. But there he was, giving his best work, blowing away every other actor on the playing field, in this tiny movie that played in art-houses, mainly. That’s what I mean by lack of ego. However, the man does not lack ambition. He has been working by stealth. This again touches on my thoughts about ego, which I want to save, but here’s a taste of it.

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He has not “campaigned” for Oscars, not openly, he doesn’t appear in movies where it’s a done deal that he will be nominated. And when he does work that is so spectacular, like he does in The Door in the Floor, and it’s not even nominated – he doesn’t seem to crawl back to the trenches and start to scheme and plot that “next year will be the year”. You can sense that kind of ambition in certain actors, and I don’t fault them for it. Who doesn’t want to be in good projects and try to get some respect from your peers? But when you can sense an “Oscar grab” in a performance, it’s a turnoff for me. Bridges is always better than anyone else – like I said, hyperbole is too gentle for his talent – but he seems to do his thing, awesomely, every time, and then go back to Malibu, to have a Scotch on his deck, and hang out with his wife, and play guitar, and then, the next project comes along – whatever it is – and he goes back to work. There’s not a visible campaign ANYWHERE. It is so rare as to be almost unthinkable. I am trying to think of an equivalent and am coming up empty. At least in terms of true movie stars of his particular wattage. He is not an indie favorite, he is not a best-kept secret, nothing like that. He is a giant motherfucking movie star. I can think of many actors on other tiers of the industry who are also consistently fantastic – Samantha Morton immediately comes to mind – but while she is certainly wildly successful, you can’t really call her a “movie star”. She’s an actress, a successful and in-demand film actress, who, I think, puts many other movie stars to shame. She is amazing. But Jeff Bridges is a movie star with a capital M and a capital S. To be at his level, at his age, after the length of his career, and to not sense a “campaign” there (“I gotta have a comeback now”, “THIS role I’ll get my Oscar”) is truly amazing. Unheard of. It takes an enormous lack of ego to be at his level and to not plan.

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I don’t want to simplify this, because he obviously picks his roles very very carefully. As Bruce Reid mentioned above, there are very few missteps in his career – and I don’t believe that’s an accident or coincidence. He PICKS. He CHOOSES. He is extremely smart. But his concerns in the choosing appear to be with the project itself, not what it can do for him, or how it can position himself. He appears (again, I have no idea) to be beyond those careerist concerns.

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Maybe he’s a bigger genius than I ever realized, than any of us realized, and this whole THING has been a plan. Maybe after Last Picture Show, when he was a pudgy-faced teenager, he thought to himself, “Let me just be good … in every single thing I do … and maybe when I’m in my late 50s … it will suddenly be my time.” It’s strange to say that for me because I think that it’s basically ALWAYS Jeff Bridges’ time. He’s my favorite living actor. I do not consider an Oscar statue to be the measure of an actor’s worth. Cary Grant didn’t win an Oscar. At least not for a particular role he played. Marisa Tomei has an Oscar for a role she could have played in her sleep. So that goes to show you how much MEANING it really has. Of course it has meaning, in terms of career, and opportunity, and being “in the history books forever”, but besides that: who gives a shit? Those actors who appear NOT to give a shit are the ones who often are the last men standing. Jeff Bridges will be the last man standing. In many ways, he IS the last man standing. He is of the same generation as DeNiro, Pacino who dominated in the 70s and 80s, while Bridges? Not so much. Although, please, if I could NOT dominate in the 70s and 80s and have the level of success Bridges had? I would die a happy woman. But look at what has happened. The best work of DeNiro and Pacino is long in the past (so far. I live in hope). I will get into that in my ego/actor post. Bridges gives the sense, he always gives the sense, that his best work very well may be ahead of him.

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He’s a star. Yes. But before that, he is an actor. He approaches his career the way my friends do who are actors on a regional-theatre level, awesome actors all of them, none of them famous on a wide scale, although very well-known in their own communities. They get cast as Puck, or Nora in A Doll’s House, or the Red Queen, or Eliza Doolittle – and they work their asses off, in a very specific and focused way, to do that particular play in that particular time. If the play calls for singing, they work like hell on the songs. If the play calls for an accent, they get a coach and work on the accent. These are the actors, true passionate and committed, that make up the industry. To find that same level of workmanship and selflessness in a movie star is amazing. People who are giant stars tend to get cautious. It makes sense. They have way more to lose than when they were young and hungry and eager to make their name. That much attention can make people clamp down, and try to just hold on to what they already have. Jeff Bridges, who never reached a kind of critical mass, never had an “iconic” part, that tapped into the zeitgeist, or was culturally explosive, avoided those issues. So he is hugely successful, yet he STILL doesn’t have that much to lose. You can feel it in his work. He is not protective. He is not clamped-down. He is fearless. Even more so now. What happened to other actors is in reverse with him. The more successful and visible he has become, the more risks he has taken.

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Bad Blake in Crazy Heart, as far as I’m concerned, is just in the continuum of his excellence. It is certainly one of his most memorable parts. Jeff Bridges is, it need not be said really, a stunningly handsome man. He is a born leading man. So to see him here, overweight, perpetually sweaty, with a strange gait that suggests serious health problems NOT being handled, is thrilling. There’s one point when he leans in to kiss Maggie Gylennhall, and although she is drawn to him emotionally, she instinctively backs up, because, you know, of his breath. Cigarettes and booze. The man REEKS. Jeff Bridges creates this. I can smell his breath through the screen. He is sexy, but that’s just because he still has the faded glow around him of success. Bad Blake was once a big country/western star. He drives around the Southwest in a beat-up truck, being holed up in ratty motels, playing one-night-only gigs at bowling alleys and ratty piano bars. It is a fall from grace. But America, this land of “no second acts”, remembers its heroes, and Bad Blake is remembered. He will not be allowed a second act, but his first act will be extended, ad nauseum, until the man passes out anonymously in some alley in Durango. Bad Blake stands up on the tiny stages, hemmed in by his rent-a-bands, singing songs that are 30 years old, but you can see, by the beaming faces of the lovely people in attendance, that they remember. Hm, sound familiar? But Bad Blake is so far gone in his alcoholism that the love of the people that remains cannot touch him.

Bridges has an innate strain of cruelty in him that is in all of his parts (except, notably, Starman, where I imagine he, in his talent, “conducted” that strong strain in him to be silent), and if I could say that there was something he always does, in all parts, it would be that cruel streak. He expects a lot from people. He punishes them, emotionally, when they let him down. Think of Max in Fearless and how coldly he treats his wife because she didn’t have the great gift of being in the plane crash with him. This is not affectation. This is true. This is vintage Bridges. Sorry, I know it’s bad form to continually reference MYSELF, but I cover that in detail in the piece on HSD. Jeff Bridges never plays joiners. He plays solitary men. Sometimes the solitary nature of their character means they are visionaries: Seabiscuit, Tucker – and, to some degree, The Door in the Floor, although that has more of a tormented subtext to it. But more often than not, the solitary quality of his characters, leaves them in isolation – even when they find themselves in a romance. The Fisher King, The Fabulous Baker Boys. It’s rare to find Jeff Bridges in a community-driven character. He’s not a political organizer (funny, to think of his portrayal of The President in The Contender – think about how isolated that guy is, basically spending his time as President calling down bizarre food requests to the White House kitchen to see how they come up with it – he doesn’t play the President as a passionate involved politician. He plays him as a weirdo loner.) He often plays weirdo loners. To be so convincing as a weirdo loner, and to look like he does, is again, almost historical in its rarity. Many people with the kind of beauty Bridges has often want to play against their beauty, in order to prove their acting chops. I get it. I do. Even though I’m not beautiful like that, I can understand the impulse. But Bridges, a magician of acting, a true channeler, is beyond all of that. He couldn’t care less about any of that.

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His performance in Crazy Heart is one of the most palpable portrayals I can think of what addiction is. I thought of Nicolas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas as I watched Bridges handle the need, the NEED, for a drink, and I also thought of Gena Rowlands in Opening Night, and how, at all moments when she is not drinking, she vibrates with need for a fix. It is never discussed or lingered over, but it is the OTHER character in that film. Unnamed, yet present. Bridges has moments that are breathtakingly sad, where you can feel his body kick in … He may be having a lovely day, taking his new girlfriend and her son for a hot-air balloon ride, a beautiful day, right? But he can’t be present. He can’t. Because all he is present to is how much he can’t wait to be alone and pour a drink. It’s terrible. It makes you sick to watch. It takes great compassion and empathy to portray such a need. He does it without condescension or self-importance. It is a physical sensation, outside of any actor-ish needs, such as “Look at me having DTs.” I myself felt sick watching Bridges maneuver through his life in Crazy Heart. In the middle of scenes, I would think, “Jesus, he’s about due for a drink now, isn’t he?” The addiction is so palpable, so present, that I couldn’t forget about it, not for a second. Late in Crazy Heart, the alcoholism takes center stage, but the film isn’t about that, not really. It’s not a “clean up and watch how wonderful life is” kind of story. Bad Blake is too far gone for that. As he says to another character at one point, “I been drunk most of my life.” There’s a lot of wreckage. It can’t be fixed. His life cannot be repaired.

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Compared to last year’s The Wrestler, Crazy Heart is not as bleak. There is more hope for humanity, and for the lost souls among us, in Crazy Heart. The Wrestler is ruthless, in typical Darron Aronofsky style. If there is hope anywhere, it will be crushed by Aronofsky! In some ways, my sensibility is more like Aronofsky’s. I don’t like easy endings. I don’t relate at all to NEATness, which is why I love John Cassavetes’ movies so much (speaking of Opening Night). I find neatness alienating, and I find a desire for neatness in plot and story to be even more alienating. So I relate to the bleakness of The Wreslter, because that seems pretty true to life to me. You don’t always get what you want, and that’s final. Crazy Heart‘s path is not the path of The Wrestler, and I haven’t decided yet if the movie is stronger or weaker for that. I’m still pondering it. I can’t tell what is MY need (“I wish the movie went like THIS”) and what might be an actual flaw in the film.

Regardless. There is a giant bear of a performance going on by Bridges in Crazy Heart, and he is as good as he has ever been.

With him, that’s saying a hell of a lot, but it’s also just stating the obvious. As far as I’m concerned, Jeff Bridges has ALWAYS been as good as he’s ever been. Which is the best.

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My House Next Door piece on Bridges here.

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35 Responses to Jeff Bridges: My Manifesto

  1. phil says:

    Under the radar. Just like you say, and right where I prefer him to stay because he’s so brilliant there. In a great sort of way.

    In Fat City he is so unassuming and perfect, not showy.

  2. red says:

    Yes – under the radar. He’s a stealth bomber – and in that way has managed to consistently be great without the pressure of trying to repeat himself or live up to some image. and yet at the same time, he’s a huge movie star, whose name always comes first in the credits. A fascinating man.

    I love Fat City! So hard to find now – unless it’s on DVD and I am not aware of it.

  3. red says:

    Oh, and I can’t wait for the new Tron and also (looking to the future) the remake of True Grit. Bridges has a cranky solitude in him strikingly similar to that of John wayne – and it has just gotten more acute as he’s grown older. He LOOKS like we should LOVE him, that handsome face, but more often than not, he seems impatient and cranky – like, “You’re on your own with your nonsense …” which is quintessential John Wayne. I can’t think of any actor who has that quality so INNATELY as Jeff Bridges. It’s not acting with him – it’s enough of a STRAIN in his work that I think there’s something natural about it, something that he “goes to”, naturally. John Wayne had it naturally as well – and it’s a very strange quality: to be a huge movie star and yet to not be all that likeable, to be a hardass, a sonofabitch on occasion, etc. etc. Jeff Bridges has always had these qualities – so I’m excited to see what he does with True Grit.

  4. red says:

    Russell Crowe now seems more concerned with being likeable – which is a real loss – because I think back on who he was in Romper Stomper and LA Confidential – and it’s that quality that made him strictly old-school. A throwback to the cranky solitary guys of film noir and old Westerns. He seems to have softened a bit – a bit more concerned with his public image – which, again, seems to happen when you have too bright of a spotlight on you. He had a GLARE on him for a good 5 years straight, and I feel that his work has suffered. He’s still a young man, still time … but he needs to get fearless again.

    Jeff Bridges has always been fearless. And dominant.

    That is the gift of flying under the radar

  5. Lisa says:

    I saw a documentary once where Dorothy Bridges was talking about her son, Garrett, that died of SIDS shortly before Jeff was born. She said that because of that tragedy, she babied Jeff more than she had Beau. She said he didn’t leave her sight for about a year. She said she thought she’d ruined him, but I wonder if that all-encompassing love, so rare for the time in parenting, gave him more of a sense of self, a greater confidence.

  6. red says:

    Lisa – wow. Amazing.

  7. red says:

    At times he looks creepily like Kris Kristoffersen in Crazy Heart. Like identical twins – very strange.

  8. Kelly says:

    I got very excited when I saw the preview for this movie. Jeff Bridges just filled up the screen from the first second and made me want to go back to the movie theater. It looked like it was going to be a really good performance. Plus I had just seen Ryan Bingham singing locally. It looks like I still have a wait until it makes it to the theaters here.

  9. tracey says:

    Oh, he is my absolute favorite. Great post, Sheila. Can’t wait for this movie, which I assume we’ll get much later out here on the West Coast.

    Have you ever checked out his movie set photography? I love the little details he seems interested in: here’s some shoes, here’s a doll head, here’s a wardrobe test shot. It’s like nothing is BENEATH his interest and I think that’s part of what makes him the best living actor we have today. I almost feel like he sees the world with this all-encompassing eye that so few possess. A world that he is both in — and apart from. What fascinates me about him is he seems completely free with this duality. It’s natural to him, not anything practiced.

  10. tracey says:

    Also, his little photo story of shaving his head for Iron Man is hilarious and kind of adorable. I didn’t think it was possible for me to be more in love with him.

    The images combined with his commentary are just too much for me.

  11. red says:

    Tracey – I absolutely love his movie set photography. There’s something so innocent about it, sweet – but you’re right: what he chooses to shoot shows his curiosity and interest in pretty much everything.

    His website is awesome too.

    Crazy Heart, as of now, is only playing in one movie theatre in New York City – the Angelica – an “art-house” cinema – no wide release yet, even here. I know Fox Searchlight, once the “oscar buzz” started a while back – decided to distribute it, at least in a semi-decent manner – so I don’t know if they’re staggering it – if it will play in more houses or what.

  12. red says:

    I didn’t mention the rest of the movie, I realize – He really is the only reason to see it. He dominates every scene, and pretty much easily steals the whole thing. I like Maggie Gylennhall – but I feel she is outclassed here. Maybe it’s the part she plays. She does have a couple of really really good moments (one where she meets up with him at the security desk of a local mall because her little boy has vanished in the mall – her behavior in that brief scene is so real, so rough – it is EXACTLY what you would do in that situation – ) – but on the whole, I felt she just couldn’t hold her own with Bridges.

    The real surprise for me was Colin Farrell, With his slick ponytail, he just looks so perfect for the part – the sort of modern-day country/western star – where Jeff Bridges as Bad Blake is of the old-school Hank Williams variety. But Farrell looks perfect for the part – his accent was spot on – didn’t hear ANY of his Irish-ness – and one of the things that was so great is that he’s not in it that much, but it’s basically THE most important relationship in the movie – and the two of them have a couple of scenes, where they converse, back and forth – and it’s subtle stuff, very well written – and Farrell is completely in his element. I didn’t feel that he was outclassed, or trying to keep up with a great actor who was acting him off the screen just by standing there. I really felt their engagement with one another. Farrell plays a new country music star – and Bad Blake had given him his start, back in the day. He was a mentor to him. Farrell is now the big star, and Bridges is washed up. But Farrell has the perfect blend of sadness at what his idol has become – and also admiration, and straight-up love – for the man who did so much for his career. It’s hard to explain, or pin down – it all could have been totally cliche: the young upstart forgetting where he came from and those who helped put him there. Farrell plays a man who does not forget. WILL not forget. He loves Bad Blake. He is a realistic man, knows he can’t save his mentor from the obscurity he now lives in – but he still would love to help … if he could.

    Anyway. Really really nice job by Colin Farrell. He should be very proud.

  13. Dan says:

    I didn’t realize Bridges was attached to True Grit; makes the whole thing much more palatable.

  14. red says:

    Dan – Definitely! I’m not really “against” remakes like a lot of people seem to be. I think you definitely need to have a REASON to remake something, and it better be a good one – but I don’t see these older movies as museum pieces, to not be touched again, ever. I mean, if someone wants to “remake” Casablanca, but do it with the context of a different war, and different international issues – it really could be a fine movie, and wouldn’t take anything away from the original, if well done, and re-imagined, whatever.

    I’ve thought it might be interesting to do a remake of Only Angels Have Wings – except have it be astronauts, or test pilots today – with different challenges of technology. Only Angels Have Wings is my favorite movie ever and I don’t think a remake of it would be “wrong” or somehow sullying something sacred.

    Just my two cents.

    They can be tricky – I do admit that – (I am thinking of that funny Tina Fey line when she used to do the weekend updates on SNL – something like: “Word on the street is that Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck would like to do a remake of Casablanca. It will be for those who loved the original but wished it was terrible.” hahahahaha) – but I hear a lot of commentary like, “don’t you DARE remake such and such …” and I guess I don’t get it.

    Of all the big movie stars today – I think Jeff Bridges is definitely the right choice for a True Grit remake. He’s always been unambiguously masculine, in a throwback kind of way (even Fabulous Baker Boys – not a great movie, not really – but in that film he is playing the role in the way Grant would have played it, or Bogart – a tough solitary dude who doesn’t want any dame messing up his independence).

    So fingers crossed!!!

  15. red says:

    Back to Crazy Heart: also, Jeff Bridges is also a musician, and has been so for years. He has a couple of albums out – but here, channeling all of that through a character – he really gets a chance to SHOW that musicianship he has. I 100% believe that he was once a giant C/W star. No doubt about it.

  16. Jen W. says:

    As soon as I saw the review of this movie in Rolling Stone, I was hoping you’d write about it and more about Jeff. This was more than I’d hoped for! Definitely interested in reading more about your thoughts on ego and acting.

  17. mitchell says:

    Door in the Floor…so overlooked..so wonderful…Jeff Bridges is a dreamboat even when he’s a prick! How do u do that? Cary Grant is an apt comparison, i think. Argh.im so in love with him.

  18. Courtney says:

    Oh, sigh. Love this manifesto, love it. I have been a dedicated Bridges fan for a terribly long time and am so, so happy this movie will soon be coming to a theater near me. Thanks for such passionate, eloquent writing –

  19. DBW says:

    Wonderful stuff, Sheila. Loved your observation that it always seems his best work may be ahead of him. That’s very unusual for someone who has been around this long.

    I had not heard anything about True Grit and Bridges…my heart skipped. One sad thing–as much as I love his work, I realized there are lots of his movies I have never seen, including some great ones. Time to get to the Delayed Pleasures list.

    One other thing about Bridges–I always see a strong sense of self in his characters; self-confidence, self-awareness, or, at least, self-acceptance. Even in his characters without self-confidence–they seem calmly aware of their reality. Even the Dude knows what it means to be “The Dude.” And he’s almost always a MAN, as opposed to just a man.

  20. red says:

    Jen W. – Yeah, the ego/acting thing began with a conversation with my friend David a couple months back about Mickey Rourke – and then, coincidentally, Jeff Bridges came into it – and it suddenly ballooned into a HUGE topic in my head, something I really needed to think about, and play on in my head before writing.

    The connection between The Wrestler and Crazy Heart was the jumping-off point – because the similarities are certainly there, but the differences are just as important – and I think it has to do with ego.

    Ego has negative connotations sometimes in our culture right now, but I don’t mean it in a bad way. I mean an uber-consciousness of self – which, when translated into acting, can be pretty damn striking. Like Brando in On the Waterfront.

    But here I am, already writing the piece. Maybe I’ll work on it on my writing retreat in January, after I get a bunch of my off-line writing work done.

  21. red says:

    Mitchell – member when we went to go see Nadline together and how much we ADORED it? That movie is really hard to find now and I think it’s a shame. A real screwball comedy for the modern era – like The Awful Truth. I LOVED those two together – which made it even more poignant to see them act again in Door in the Floor – older now, wiser, sadder … It’s a great pairing. Back in the day, the studio days, the chemistry between Bridges and Basinger in Nadine might have been paylayed into a string of movies done together – like Cary Grant and Irene Dunne.

    LOVE Nadine. He is so hot in that movie, and I love how DUMB he is. Bridges can play smart, but he can also play a really dim bulb and also be totally convincing.

    And can we please discuss Thunderbolt and Lightfoot?

    I remember you shouting, during one of our conversations about that movie “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, baby, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot!”

    Granted, it’s no GI Jane, but then, what is?

  22. red says:

    Oops – I mean Nadine, not Nadline.

  23. brendan says:

    Speaking of Colin Farrell, I just saw ‘In Bruges’ and he is MAGNIFICENT. Not just good for Colin Farrell, but MAGNIFICENT.

  24. red says:

    Bren – I have heard that. Allison said exactly the same thing. I have to say, I am not surprised. I’ve always liked him. This part in Crazy Heart seemed different for him – I actually wasn’t aware that he could sing like that (he and Bridges doing harmony on a big amphitheatre stage? Heaven!!) – and he really had some GREAT scenes with Bridges – the entire movie would have unraveled if those particular scenes hadn’t been nailed. They were more important than the love story plot-line – and Farrell was totally up to it. Great job.

    In Bruges is definitely on my must-see list. I have no idea why I missed it!

  25. brendan says:

    Oh you are in for a treat of the highest order. Gleeson, Fiennes, Farrell and Martin McDonough? First of all, McDonough totally escapes the playwright-as-film-auteur trap. You don’t ever feel like the words are the most important part of what you are witnessing even though they are wonderfully crafted.

    Also I got a little thrill because the Farrell character is named ‘Ray’ and I just know that McDonough projects the character I played in ‘Beauty Queen’ forward into this story.

    Really fantastic movie. Mike had a good point that if they’d not named it the obscure ‘In Bruges’ it might have done a lot better because it really works as a thriller.

    Loved it. Farrell won a Golden Globe and it is one of those performances where you automatically start spouting off about how he should win an award for it.

  26. red says:

    Bren – yeah, Allison just adored it. It’s on my queue, looking forward to it.

  27. red says:

    DBW – I am hard pressed to pick a favorite Bridges role. It fluctuates. If you haven’t seen Nadine, I highly recommend it – but I don’t think it’s even out on DVD, so you’d need a VCR. I own a copy – I just love it. He plays a doofus in it, a befuddled man on the way to divorce (from Kim Basinger) – and he’s so funny, so unselfconscious, and sexy sexy sexy. But really not all that bright.

    I haven’t even talked all that much about Starman, which is what first drew me to Bridges in the first place. I saw that before I saw Last Picture Show, or Bad Company, or his earlier stuff – and he just haunted me in that movie. You totally totally believe that he is an alien being INHABITING a human form. Like – the whole smile thing – how at first it starts out mechanical, he is just imitating what a smile looks like – and then, his first real smile …

    How does he do it without being schticky?

    Again, it’s the lack of ego. But you’re right -he also brings a strong sense of self to each part – and that’s another rare thing; to be so aware of who he is, and how he operates – and ALSO to not be an egomaniac narcissist. He’s a rare bird.

    I love the comparison to Robert Mitchum, made by David Thomson in his film encyclopedia – I think it’s VERY apt and why he works so well in modern-day noirs, like Against All Odds (a remake of the brilliant Out of the Past, with Mitchum and Kirk Douglas) – and, to some degree, Jagged Edge. He works well in that environment. He is never ever a “naif”. He always seems a bit too AWARE of things to be a naive man caught up in events – he’s always got some angle going on himself. Classic noir.

  28. red says:

    I am particularly partial, for personal reasons, for his cocky shock-jock laid low in The Fisher King. I love the romance with mercedes Ruehl – it has true complexity, adult complexity – and he plays the cockiness to perfection, and then plays his tailspin into despair to perfection as well. Not a perfect movie, but I adore it. It really GETS to me.

  29. DBW says:

    I like the comparison to Mitchum, who was always self-aware in his characters. Even as a lug in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, he knows he’s a lug–a lug who knows what he knows, and knows what he doesn’t know, and is mostly OK with that. But he was always a MAN, and comfortable with that, too. Mitchum and Bridges are rarely apologetic for their character’s station in life–aware of it, sure, but not apologetic.(BTW-I apologize(LOL)for the unfocused comment. I am at work, and quite busy as the end of the year approaches. Commenting in patches at this point.)

    I have seen, and like, all the movies you just mentioned, but there are several others(Door in the Floor and White Squall, for example)that I haven’t seen–yet.

  30. red says:

    DBW – you can make an unfocused comment on my site any time.

    White Squall is not a great movie but he is great in it – someone made the comment on my House Next Door piece (I think it was the wonderful Bruce Reid, whose comments are always so insightful) – that White Squall made him surprised that Bridges hadn’t played more military men. It would be a good fit. There is a solitary GRUMP at work behind the matinee-idol good looks – the kind of guy who would be totally at home submerging his own interests for the good of the group (although this contradicts my comment about joiners – he would have to play a Colonel, or a Commander – someone high up, someone singular, who has been promoted because of his ability – not because of his slavish obedience – ) – His crankiness with the boys on the ship in White Squall, how uninterested he is in their “excuses” – his ferocity in the face of their incompetence – makes me think he would be absolutely phenomenal as a military man. He’s a California surfer dude at heart – who was devoted to things like Est and other 70s new age type trends – but this is just another example of his chameleon-like qualities.

    And yes yes yes I LOVE the comparison with Mitchum, which really holds up the more I examine it. Mitchum did not rely on youth – although he was pretty sexy as a young man – but as he got older, he just got more interesting. and more sexy. This is not always the case with male movie stars. It’s sad to see someone clinging to who he USED to be (same with female movie stars) – but Bridges has incorporated his age and his wrinkles and his gut into his work – so that he has even MORE gravitas, now that the bloom of youth is long gone.

    Door in the Floor is fantastic, and it is certainly (hard to say) his best work. Certainly the best performance of an actor that year – nobody can hold a candle to him. Great film – I think you’d love it!!

  31. red says:

    And yes, he is unabashedly male. It is one of the best things about him. Although he is cruel to his wife in Fearless, and distant – he does have a point: you cannot understand what I went through. Don’t even try, CHiPs. And YET, and YET: in the end, when he comes out of the dreamspace – who will he need? It will be her. Not Rosie Perez – but HER. His mate. To understand that and accept that is what it REALLY means to be unabashedly male.

  32. Doc Horton says:

    Ho hum, another insightful piece by Ms. O’Malley. Love it. I don’t know if you’ve seen it yet, but Jeff Bridges just played the hippie military officer in Clooney’s goat staring movie. One more thing about him that strikes me is his selection of parents. I believe he did that well. They met in undergraduate drama class at UCLA and were married for 60 years.

  33. red says:

    Doc Horton – I haven’t seen Men who stare at goats yet – which is nuts because it’s got three of my faves in it: Clooney, Ewan McGregor and Bridges – just haven’t got around to it, but I am very much looking forward to it.

    and thanks for the “ho hum”. What a nice compliment. :)

  34. debra says:

    I thought of you tonight when he won the golden globe.

  35. :d No wonder why Google search result advert virtuoso Themelis Cuiper notified me about your post – you are doing a great job as he is pointing towards you?

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