Monday, May 3, 2010

Maggie 2010: Catch-Up Time!

I'm trying for five sentences per movie. Going to try to keep these reviews manageable for once!

#61. Bronson

Tom Hardy does tremendous justice to the physical presence and compellingly unique character of the real Charles Bronson -- no, not the actor: Britain's most violent criminal, Michael Peterson at birth. Eager to make a name for himself, Peterson committed armed robbery and ended up in jail, where hostage-taking and regular brawling led him to spend 30 of the next 34 years behind bars in solitary. Still in prison today, Bronson's later pursuance of art, his interest in charities, and his attempts at sustained self-reform have garnered him an impassioned group of followers appealing for his release, and this film by director Nicholas Winding Refn is considered very much to sympathize with the pressures incurred by celebrity-crazed pop culture while indicting the prison system for its inability to arrive at a humane solution for the Bronson dilemma. On a franker note, this piece glories in the spirit of the performance Peterson embarked upon throughout his life and especially his years in prison, but curiously omits key and central facets of Peterson's life -- not the least of which being his conversion to Islam after incarceration as part of his love for a woman who met him in prison, and subsequent refutation of Islam after their divorce. All in all, Bronson is a compelling character study, but is ultimately wanting as functional narrative.

#62. Crazy Heart

Crazy Heart is The Wrestler with a happier ending. Really. Jeff Bridges deservedly won an Oscar for his portrayal of a fading country singer Bad Blake struggling with alcoholism and cleaving to hopes of turning his life around without suffering the indignity of leaning on his former, younger, now widely successful touring partner (Tommy Sweet, played by Ryan Bingham). When Bad Blake meets and falls in love with small town reporter Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal), he's again inspired to write new lyrics and hope for a better tomorrow; however, the form it takes is not anywhere near ideal -- though it is, at its core, quite human. I can't say I was anywhere near as moved by Crazy Heart as I was by The Wrestler, but the former does manage the striking feat of forwarding fresh country songs convincingly catchy enough to bolster Bad Blake's claim to fame: a nice touch of realism that certainly helps pull at the heart strings when the going gets rough.

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