Saw “Crazy Heart” the other night. It’s a very, very good film. The story line and character development are plausible. I enjoyed the music and sense of place. And Jeff Bridges gave the performance of his lifetime. The only problem was the romance. I simply could not wrap myself around that cute little “Jane” (a young single mother and newspaper reporter played by Maggie Gyllenhal–and you know how adorable she is) getting herself romantically involved with a 57-year-old skanker.
Now it’s true “Bad” (the Jeff Bridges character) has a good heart. But he also is a once-famous, washed-up C&W singer/songwriter who is reduced to playing gigs in bowling alleys. He’s a chain-smoking terminal drunk, drives an aged vehicle, and is very lax in his personal hygiene. I know how bad he smells just by looking at him. And yet Jane professes herself in love?
God give me strength here as I walk myself through this. Women who have it going on do not do these things. The screenplay did not endow Jane with the type of baggage that would make her getting into bed with that odiferous man even remotely plausible. Drunk older men are useless in bed, as are most drunk younger men. “Bad” is barely coherent most of the time. There is nothing in that relationship for Jane–at least nothing I could see. She was not a drunk herself and did not exhibit near-fatal codependent characteristics. She was smart and attractive, owned a home, had a good job, and had gotten herself out of a bad marriage she admitted more than once was a “mistake”.
In the real world, attractive younger women go for older men only if there is a lot of what my buddy Cheryl and I call “value added”. That means money is involved, and perhaps social status and/or glam…whatever it is that attract women young enough to be his granddaughters to marry Rod Stewart.
Men of a certain age fall in love with younger women because they don’t want to die (ref. Olympia Dukakis’s line in “Moonstruck”). Geezers and geezers-to-be enjoy the giggles and flattery and perky breasts of younger women. They feel a whole lot younger themselves with a younger woman on the arm who will listen to their bullshit. In addition to money, the girls want a secure nest in which to raise their babes, should babes be in the picture. And they know these old farts are going to die before they do.
I admit to being a bit jaded on this matter, as I am a woman who tried dating in my fifties. In 90 percent of cases, an attractive 45-65 year old man will only date a woman his age if she is “financially secure”. By that, I mean seriously well-to-do. More often, however, someone 15-20 years younger will do nicely, thank you.
Such , gentle readers, is the way of the world. That said, I highly recommend “Crazy Heart”. From where I come from, it’s gut-wrenchingly real–except for the younger woman stuff. And, in novels and movies, we show up to be entertained and to escape. That is why we suspend disbelief when the not-quite-believable and the too-good-to-be-true happen–and why we love all those action heroes and anti-heroes.
This is the stuff I am dealing with right now in my own upcoming novel. I want it to be realistic. But I also know we all are open and willing to make those leaps of faith.
P.S. Since I wrote this, Jeff Bridges has been nominated for a best actor Oscar; Maggie Gyllenhal is in the running for best actress in a supporting role.