Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pathetically Drunken Heroes

I watched the movie Crazy Heart last night with Jeff Bridges, and it got me thinking.  What is it about the seemingly irredemable drunk that is so appealing?
Jeff Bridges plays Bad Blake (do you not just love how corny that name is?), a formerly famous country singer/songwriter who is on the way down.  He's become a sloppy drunk, but still very professional.  I mean, he runs out of a show in the middle of a set to puke because he's so drunk, but he still makes it back in time to finish the song.  I loved that every time they showed him getting out of his beat to hell suburban he had his pants undone.  He spent half the movie zipping and buckling. 
It took me a while to get this, but Bad apparently had mentored county sensation Tommy Sweet, played by Colin Farrell (who didn't even get listed in the credits), and now Tommy is big, and Bad is well, bad.  A couple of times early in the movie Bad is asked about Tommy Sweet and he's all "Oh, no, I can't go there", but it's not really clear why, and then his agent calls and makes him do a show with Tommy, they get together and have dinner and everything is all peachy between them again.  I suspect there might be some scenes that got cut there, because that whole conflict kind of didn't work. 
Anyway.  Maggie Gyllenhaal shows up, they fall in love, even though he's old and stinky and drunk and has totally saggy man boobs, and she's cute and young and smart ( I love her as a heroine because she's not perfect looking, she's going to have baggy cheeks when she gets old, except she's not because she'll get plastic surgery, but whatever). 
Bad messes up, loses Maggie, sobers up, tries to get Maggie back, and well, I'll leave it at that. 
BTW, the soundtrack to this movie was great.  T Bone Burnett wrote all the songs, I guess.   I'm going to have to hit I Tunes for this one.

Marlon Brando was another good Pathetic Drunk portrayer with major issues (both him and his characters, I guess).  And nice pecs.  Until he went all Apocalypse Now, although there was still something about him...
But the movie I'm thinking of is the one with the nail clippers and the stick of butter.  You know which one I mean. I can't remember the title, and I'm not going to google it right now, I'll call you when I remember at four in the morning.  That movie was hot.  It was like, "OMG, I know I'm supposed to be freaked out, and I am a little, but wow." 

And of course, Kris Kristofferson in the remake of A Star Is Born.  I was never quite able to sit through the original, but again, there is that drunken rock star boy. 

And Nick Cage in Leaving Las Vegas.  Now THERE was a movie with a happy ending (that was sarcasm.  I don't have the sarc mark to add).

I think that, besides the Pathetically Drunk hero in all of these movies, the common factor is the woman who loves him.  The heroine who finds and falls under the spell of whatever humanity remains in our wastrel hero.  Sure, we are hoping he gets it together, and sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn't, but the heroine always manages to find her way.  She manages to stand up and say, "Hey, I love you, but I have to take care of myself and I am not going to let you fuck me up along with you."  Okay, it's been so long since I've seen Leaving Las Vegas that I'm not sure that happens with Elisabeth Shue, but it does in the other three. 

Here's the thing. In real life, there is nothing sexy about loving a man who could choke on his own vomit at anytime; and who can't be counted on for anything. Fortunately, my own beloved doesn't fall into this category of protagonist.  But there sure are plenty of drunken men (and women!)  and plenty of women (and men!)  who try to make it work.  Call it optimism, call it insanity, whatever it is, some of us must have some sort of an "If-He-Love-Me-He'd-Change" mutation in the genome.  I've been to an Alanon meeting...I know this is true. 

Well, anyway, it makes for good cinema.  Happily Ever After?  Not so much.


  1. So true (and funny, you crazy thing. love it). There was also another one with Meg Ryan and oh gosh, what's his name, I don't remember I'll call you when I think of it halfway through my midnight snack--but it was the one where Meg Ryan is a drunk and she gets so wasted she crashes through her shower door in front of her son? Man, that had such an awesome opening scene. Anyway, yeah, nothing glamorous about loving an addict or tortured soul or combo thereof.

  2. Oh! Yeah, that one was great...When a Man Loves a Woman. I guess I didn't think of that because it was the pathetically drunk heroine (much harder to portray, I think!). Maybe I'll do a post some day on movies and books about pathetic drunks in general.

  3. I've not seen any of these movies.

  4. Okay, Tina; time for a trip to Blockbuster!