I recently watched three movies starring Jeff Bridges. Some reviewers are absolutely smitten with the actor- some even calling him our greatest actor. (What happened to Keanu Reeves and Ryan Reynolds?) The movies were : “The Door in the Floor,” “Tron: The Legacy,” and “True Grit.” Bridges is a very large presence in these movies, much like Meryl Streep is in her movies. Both Bridges and Streep bother me, but for different reasons. Streep’s “great acting” reputation went down like the Hindenburg for me after seeing “Doubt.” She was so unsubtle and I had the sense that each time she over-acted she was saying to herself “Yes, another Oscar.” Bridges bothers me because he has settled into the “grizzled old man” role, using his beard, commanding size and mumbling to create his characters. Yet, he was wonderful in “Starman”, for which he won an Academy Award nomination. I really liked his intensity, especially when he said “I love you Jennie Hayden.” But now, he strikes me as an old stoner who has become the next big thing.
In “Floor” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Door_in_the_Floor) he plays a womanizing heavy drinker, Ted, who is married to a spaced-out wife, Marion, played by Kim Bassinger. The source of their current distress is the death of their two sons. The story is odd and almost seems like the two main characters were created, then the end of the story was written, and then the story was written backwards to justify the ending. But Bridges is large and powerful. Bassinger is truly in touch with the despair and hopelessness of Ruth. The movie was nonetheless powerful because it shows some of the terrible ways we behave when we are trying to cope with the disasters in our lives. Alcohol and sex dominated the lives of Ted and Marion when what they were really feeling was loss, hurt, anger, and disruption in their lives as a result of the terrible accident that took their two sons. I thought both Bridges and Bassinger were top notch in a story that seemed a bit over-the-top. The good news also was that I could actually understand what Bridges was saying, most of the time.
I have already reviewed “Tron: The Legacy.” The only good acting from Bridges in this movie was that he could say those ridiculous lines with a straight face. But, one saving grace was that I couldn’t always understand him so the ridiculousness was muted a bit.
Now there is much “chatter” (as we love to say today) about Bridges being a favorite for the Oscar for “True Grit” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/True_Grit_(2010_film). Actually, I thought the best actor in the movie was Hailee Steinfeld. She did a wonderful job of pulling of the role of the precocious and officious character Mattie Ross. Again Bridges was the hefty, grizzled old man with a beard, who mumbled. Worse, the Coen brothers, for some strange reason, did not allow the use of contractions, which made the dialogue stilted and unreal.
I did not like the movie all that much. I will give it credit for making 1877 Arkansas seem like a dirty, dusty, and generally nasty place. Bridges character, Roster Cogburn, was equally dirty, dusty, and generally nasty. But that was not enough to make it a good movie for me.
So who is our greatest actor? I have some suggestions: Robert Downey, Jr., Johnny Depp, or Anthony Hopkins. So far they have not lapsed into being old, grizzled, and bearded.