This feted vehicle of Jeff Bridges's performance-of-a-lifetime took an age to get to Australia. I caught it at 2:30pm on this, a cheap Tuesday, a week after release, four rows from the front of cinema #2 in The Ritz. I'm sure the oldies had their fun up the back.
Bridges is indeed awesome, inflating his character as Mickey Rourke did in The Wrestler, even looking like he'd been drinking steadily since The Big Lebowski to just this end. I'll admit I enjoyed the music, though I can never tell if it's country or western, or whatever it is that Leonard Cohen does.
Maggie Gyllenhaal lit up the screen as she always can, but the script cast a shadow long enough to prevent her being anything interesting. Indeed the narrative arc, the possibility of plot development, was restricted to wondering how the whole thing could possibly conclude, preferably satisfyingly. I don't think Cooper figured this out either. Redemption is popular in the U.S., and probably everywhere that God is thought to be a friend of humanity, and for it to fail as blandly as it does here makes one wish for the grand follies of past times. It couldn't even manage a decent double-dip. These days even failure tastes like success.
Robert Duvall is always a bonus to me, playing those unforgettable supporting roles in great movies like Apocalypse Now and Magnolia. (Didn't these movies show us how to screw up properly?) Here his character is too minor to rescue anything from anything. The IMDB boards are saturated with pointers to his earlier take on the same theme, Tender Mercies, a Beresford effort. It's enqueued.
This movie is worth seeing on the strength of Bridges alone; be placated by the musical interludes! ... and certainly don't read any reviews before you go. Afterwards you can nod along vigorously with Dana Stevens, Paul Byrnes and Stephanie Zacharek. Or not.