As a longtime admirer of Jeff Bridges, I’m delighted that he won his Oscar as best actor for Crazy Heart, a film with a meaty role that’s tailor-made for him (and for Oscar campaigns). But as a Houstonian, I’m disheartened that the film, while substantially set in Houston, never bothered to shoot in Houston, aside from some second-unit establishing shots of our downtown skyline (as opposed to the Texas Medical Center skyline, the Galleria/Uptown skyline, etc.).
Not only that, but Houston barkeep Bob Duvall wears a cowboy-style hat–just like every Houston bartender, I suppose–at least, according to Hollywood. In an international city marked more by high fashion and ethnic diversity, and with more astronauts than cowboys, you might as well put a bolo tie on him and dress him up like a little boy for the rodeo — which, granted, is big in Houston, but then, so is everything, including the world’s largest medical center, the rocked (but still standing) Johnson Space Center, the energy capital of the globe, an enormous port, an incredible melting pot of nationalities, etc. But Houston just wasn’t important enough to film here and to resist dated and ignorant stereotyping, even though Bridges’ character, washed up country singer-songwriter Bad Blake, extols his hometown’s assets.
Oh well. We’re used to no respect, despite the fact that we live in the ultimate can-do city. As I like to say about pretentious Dallas: They killed Kennedy; we put a man on the moon. But far beyond that, take recent history, when Houston readily embraced a quarter million refugees from Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, rolling up our sleeves and making room for them–and a crime spike to come–while the rest of the nation took us for granted and now an HBO documentary actually has the gall to diss us. Tell me, where would New Orleans’ homeless masses have been without Houston? But it’s not Houston the nation loves — it’s New Orleans, a vastly overrated tourist destination for those who don’t know any better. (You know the ones: Folks who think no visit to San Francisco is complete without roaming the tacky tourist traps of Fisherman’s Wharf, when they should be savoring the green glories of Golden Gate Park or the Presidio.)
But enough grousing, because in truth, we don’t care. We go on about our business in Houston of building and booming, and if the rest of the nation only takes notice to bash us (OK, Enron was awful — but again, we think big) and ignore our kick-ass spirit, well, I suppose ignorance can be tolerated. Besides, back to Crazy Heart, which has a great Bridges performance mired in a mediocre story of show-biz riches-to-rags.
Bad Blake is an alcoholic (now there’s a new one), a trait that’s derailed his early blooming career as he hits 57. Still highly regarded by fans, but stuck playing dives, he meets a journalist (Maggie Gyllenhaal) with a cute young son, falls for both, flirts with turning his life around, but can’t seem to shake the booze. Or can he? (Didn’t Duvall himself make this same story in Tender Mercies?)
But cliches aside, Bridges is great, and so is the music, which has an old-school-meets-new-energy country music authenticity.
If only I could say differently about the phony scenes set in Houston (I’m guessing Albuquerque stood in), but that’s Hollywood.