Tender Mercies on steroids. A personal redemption story about a country western singer, Bad Blake, whose seminal influence on country music is all but forgotten, as he struggles to overcome his drunkenness and loser mentality and status. Bad plays in pathetic bars around the southwest, while his good friend, Tommy Sweet, who was mentored and influenced by Bad, is a screaming mainstream success. Tommy wants to help Bad out, by letting him write for him, and even perform a bit, but Bad has that self destructive and prima donna purist attitude about the music that keeps him from being able to do much of anything with Tommy.
When Bad meets the young and beautiful Jean, he falls in love like never before, and seeks to redeem himself through her. The only trouble is, his bad ways return because he is still who he is, a drunken selfish slob. At first, Jean ignores it, but when Bad’s alcoholic addiction endangers her son at a mall, she finally cuts him off.
Bad, then faces his addiction and goes to rehab and considers himself changed. But when he returns to Jean to beg her forgiveness and proclaim he is a new man, she refuses to allow him back in because she knows the reality of this kind of false conversion: Redemption cannot be accomplished through or for another human person, it must be sought for it’s own sake.
And self-redemption is what Bad decides to go after. He accepts the final loss of his one hope at a new life with Jean, and ends up sticking with his new life without her. It’s the opposite of most love stories where the hero or heroine finds redemption in the love of another human being. In standard love stories, the hero or heroine must give up their selfishness and have all hopes lost before they become worthy of the lover, but in this case, that final prize never happens, which makes it a sad melancholic, but more realistic love story of redemption.