So, I've not been letting the grass grow beneath my feet. I've actually been to the movies!
Well, Jeff Bridges is great. It's a natural, lived-in performance that understands the man, with every gesture as natural as breathing. The music is fantastic, a marvelous soundtrack, and "The Weary Kind" deserves to win over the other nominees. But I'm still coming to terms with that ending, so different from the novel's, yet just as sincere. The novel's seemed to have a bitter ending for the sake of bitterness; the movie has an uplifting one just because, too. Can't we have the bittersweet one that this story seems to call for? It's choppy and does not completely deliver.
Maggie Gyllenhaal is fine, playing a vulnerable young woman who always seems to be attracted to the wrong guy. She does not want to love Bridges, but she falls for him, and takes the risk. Sometimes, though, she looks like she wishes she could do more. It doesn't help that the editing, or maybe the screenplay itself, seems to cut most developments, including what attracts her to Bad Blake.
And I don't buy that final moment, either. It could end with him walking off as Colin Farrell sings "The Weary Kind". For Gyllenhaal to approach him after telling him to leave her alone, revealing that she's married, and everything's OK now...it just doesn't ring true for the narrative. It's like everyone thought it was just too depressing that they couldn't be together, so they at least needed a friendly interview. And then she offers to let him see her son, who he lost in the middle of fucking Houston?!? NO. Bad mom.
It's an all right movie, with plenty of moments that work because of what Jeff Bridges does. I can't find room for him on my ballot, to be honest.
THE WOLF MAN
After the debacle that was my first attempt to see it, my roommate and I finally caught the movie we'd been following since pre-production. And so, here I am, almost willing to apologize to AMC, because clearly they were trying to spare me. The werewolf sequences are cool. There's plenty of mayhem to go around. But it does nothing to serve the story. It just gathers a bunch of people together in order to off them in the grisliest manner possible. Which I'm not completely against, but it does get tedious after the fourteenth kill. Not only that, they do not work with the non-werewolf scenes.
To be fair, the non-werewolf scenes don't work at all. It's hard to believe this was Benicio del Toro's pet project, for he seems to have shown up with a gun to his head. He looks miserable, poor soul, and it's hard to detect whether he's trying for realism or camp since his line readings don't go together. And he just looks ill, like he's about to throw up. We are told he is a great Shakespearean actor in the movie, but there's no point to that detail, other than to allow Anthony Hopkins to make a few theatre jokes. The character of Lawrence Talbot is dull and lifeless, and Del Toro, with his American accent frequently losing the war with his Hispanic one, is probably the worst part of the movie. At least Hopkins and Hugo Weaving are having fun with the story, though it must be said that Hopkins appears to have too much of it. It's Hopkins hamming it up, not Sir John. Emily Blunt tries to instill some life into her stock caricature, but to no avail. Only Weaving gives a performance that perfectly balances the disparate tones of the film.
And man, do those tones work against each other. Joe Johnston even admitted that he just wanted to make a fun creature feature, while the studio wanted a more serious take on the story. And, hey, that's how the script is written. Johnston's enthusiasm for one aspect of the story causes the other, larger one to suffer. Only the asylum sequence works 100%, for like Weaving, it's the one section that knows just how serious to be and how much fun to have. But hey, at least the VFX are fine and the makeup and sound design are incredible. At least I can say that.