This film made under the
theatrical arm of cable channel CMT (Country Music Television) is the
acting debut of C&W singing star Toby Keith. Now I have to admit to
not being a huge fan of what little of Keith's work I've heard mostly the
jingoistic redneck flag-wavers like "Courtesy of the Red, White and
Blue (The Angry American)" or his constantly
played commercials for Ford trucks (which get a significant amount of
product placement time here, one scene of a couple of teens four-wheeling in
a mud bank may as well have been an ad.) Other than that, all I really
know about Keith is of his silly feud with the Dixie Chicks and honestly
I tend to come down on the Chicks' side of the fence.
That said, while no one
could call Keith a particularly deep or nuanced or even good actor, he works
it out just fine for what this role calls for quiet southern stolidness
and the numbed indifference and sorrow of a former star on the slide down
It starts out with what
seems to be an inappropriate scene of Iraq soldiers clowning on video cam
until we find out a little later in the film that this tape is of a group of
soldiers from a small town in Tennessee who are killed during a training
exercise including the brothers of the two leads in the film. Bo
(Keith) is a former country music star now just drinking his way through the
casino circuit. Angel (Kelly Preston) moved to the big city (in this
case, Miami) to become a TV news personality. Of course, both of them
look to be at least 15-20 years older than any of the dead soldiers shown,
but okay, we'll bite.
This tragedy leads to the
two of them who were sweethearts as teens and were going to get married, but he
never showed to return to their small town past for the first time since
breaking free decades before. The death of their brothers symbolically
help them to come to terms with the ghosts of their past. He meets the
teenaged daughter that he fathered with Angel all those years before.
Angel also has to make peace with her angry father
another career pit stop for
former superstar Burt Reynolds (looking just slightly embalmed in a
distractingly jet-black toupee).
The movie is predictable,
but it really has some great
parts, too. Most impressive is the work of teen actress Lindsey Haun
as the daughter that Bo has never before met. Also a singer, Haun (who
is the daughter of one of the members of 80s soft rock group Air Supply, of all things...) is a
surprisingly natural, fiery and talented actress. Another shock
is that she also has the best singing voice in a movie that is full of
Also, you have to love any
movie which brings in Willie Nelson playing himself for no other reason than
that they can, leading to a nice live performance of "Will the Circle Be
Unbroken" between Keith, gospel singer BeBe Winans and Nelson.
That said, the movie has more than its
share of clichιs. Some examples: "You don't stop, you're going to dig
your way all the way to China, girl." "Mom says you have to leave room
for the roots to grow." "I don't know what's in worse shape, my truck
or my love life."
Broken Bridges is
the perfect red state movie. It's cornier than the fields surrounding
the town. It wears its passions, family values and patriotism on its sleeve. It
is opinionated (maybe excessively), slightly uncouth, oddly romantic in a
quiet way, occasionally rowdy, unwilling to swallow any of its pride and
stubbornly believes in happy endings.
Of course, many of the negatives also rear their head an inability to
connect, several occasions of people speaking out with no warning or reason about decades-old
slights, knee-jerk "patriotism," drunken bar girls, date rape, family
divides, brawling, being judgmental of anyone different, excessive drinking
and excessive sentimentality.
Yet, not all of it is quite
as black and white as you may think. Sometimes when you think the film
will be completely predictable, it throws you a change up. For,
example, the movie starts with a seemingly pro-Iraq war slant, but you are
almost shocked by the venom in Keith's voice when he declares the
senselessness of all these men dying in a "training accident."
Broken Bridges is
not exactly what anyone will call a good film, however it is definitely
worth the viewing. (9/06)
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Posted: January 6, 2007.