Bridges, who is truly a national treasure, gives the performance of his life. His Bad is a man so talented and so far gone that he might be past redemption, but still manages to retain some dignity, some professionalism, and some capacity to love. It's not a broad performance at all. It's so restrained and so intimate in its portrayal of human misery, self-inflicted, that I found it hard to watch at times. Bridges does his own singing, and he's amazing - he sounds like he used to be fantastic and is still very good. Colin Farrell plays his former protege who is now a big country/rock star, eschewing cliches of the "All About Eve" variety. Farrell's Tommy Sweet remains loyal to Bad but at the same time wants Bad's redemption for his own sake (he needs new material and nobody writes songs like Bad did in his prime) and not just for his mentor's.
Maggie Gyllenhaal plays the love interest - a divorced reporter with a four-year-old son - with a tough sweetness that's very real life and not at all the usual Hollywood imitation. Robert Duvall plays a bar owner and old friend to Bad. His presence reminds the viewer that the movie is in some ways reminiscent of Tender Mercies. At the same time it is so much its own film, not derivative in any way.
And the music - evocative and lyrical and danceable and hauntingly memorable. Written by Stephen Bruton (who died while the movie was being made) and T. Bone Burnett, it has a folk quality reminiscent of Leonard Cohen at his best, while still sounding genuinely country.
Go see it! And if Bridges doesn't get the Oscar for this performance, it will be a travesty.