I had never heard of this film when Claire suggested that go see it with our friends. Apparently, the film has sent "Oscar buzz" buzzing around Jeff Bridges, for his lead performance as an alcoholic, somewhat washed-up country singer. Indeed, he gives a remarkable performance in the film. I actually had to remind myself after the film that Jeff Bridges can usually enunciate quite well- I'd so accepted his slurred speech as normal. He's also quite believable as a singer. The songs, by T-Bone Burnett, are exemplary country in the 70s "outlaw" style.
It's hard to make a movie about an alcoholic; either he's dead or wrecked at the end, or he cleans himself up. Barfly is an exception in that not much changes for our drunken hero. This movie works because the hero pulls out of the downward spiral in an unexpected way. I also liked that the characters clash throughout the film, but none of them is really a bad guy. Maggie Gyllenhaall is especially good: as usual, she makes the world seem a bit brighter every time she's on screen. Robert Duvall is good as ever; he was also a producer on the film, which is based on a novel by Thomas Cobb.
I am always glad to see movies about human beings interacting with one another, as opposed to fighting zombies or blue alien cat people. If I have one gripe it's that the independent movie about a sullen loser facing his failings is becoming as much of a cliche as the vapid CGI blockbuster. I'm not sure how long Hollywood can survive making only huge "tent pole films" and small-budget portraits of dysfunctional people. Shouldn't there be something in the middle? What about something like Serpico? Do they make those movies any more?