When reporter Jean Craddock interviews Bad Blake -- an alcoholic, seen-better-days country music legend -- they connect, and the hard-living crooner sees a possible saving grace in a life with Jean and her young son. But can he leave behind an existence playing in the shadow of Tommy, the upstart kid he once mentored?
"Crazy Heart" is a movie about bad life choices, consequences, and redemption. It uses country music much like "The Wrestler" used professional wrestling. While the film does touch on the old school country music environment, it's actually used as more of a backdrop.
This film is a character study of Bad Blake, a down on his luck country music singer living a life of absolute self-destruction. He's been married four times, smokes heavy, and is a raging alcoholic. Life then teaches Blake some hard lessons and shows him the way to redemption through a journalist named Jean who, along with her 4 year old son, Blake truly falls for.
Jeff Bridges won ever major acting award including the Best Actor Oscar for his performance and it's not hard to see why. Bridges completely embodies the character and his performance is the film's strongest attribute. Maggie Gyllenhaal gives one of her better performances as does Colin Farrell in supporting roles.
The story does get a little predictable and isn't anything profoundly original. But neither of these minor gripes are glaring problems mainly due to the strong, honest performances and the genuine feel of realism the movie brings out. Sadly, the movie is polluted with needless profanity that is a pain to listen to and brings the movie down some. But "Crazy Heart" is a testament to Bridges' acting abilities and his performance alone is a sight to behold.
At The Movies
Crazy Heart (PG) * * * *
Director: Scott Cooper
By ROBERT WALDMAN
Mention country song and cheating hearts everywhere break out in cold sweats. Take time out to track the plight of a washed up has been guitar plucking fool(?) in Crazy Heart, a superior story of a troubled man at a crossroads in his life. Brought to us by Fox Searchlight Films this notable trip begins at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas in Vancouver. You won’t soon forget its impact or performances.
Down but not out describes the life of Bad Blake. Rough around the edges Jeff Bridges (Seabiscuit) proves he can sing with the best of them as this hick country strummer trying to survive in these heady days. Desperate for gigs our Mr. Blake finds more solace in the bottle than performing venues. Once somewhat famous Blake now has a hard time making ends meet. Unusual dives seem the only place he can derive a paycheck from. Reputations also die hard and some old time fans still cling to his lyrics like fleas to a dog. Big paychecks, however, are few and far between.
Performing on the road can be rough and director/writer Scott Cooper sure does create an effective road weary atmosphere that fits this man’s life to a tee. We all know that life can have surprises especially if you’re always travelling. Slow living seems synonymous with Blake and he likes it that way. Moments with the ladies are a whole different matter.
Through careful tender moments we learn about this man’s past and then an encounter with a new woman further hurls his life into more uncertainty. Woman of the hour Jean Craddock comes with her own baggage of sorts. Delightfully captured by Maggie Gyllenhaal (Secretary) these two seem a mismatch but through the course of a date or two they sort of come together. Oh, and the responsibility of children come into play as the astute writing and presentation carefully shows their meaning and effect on adults.
Strong supporting work from a casual Robert Duvall (The Godfather) as a friend to Blake and a hot up and comer represented by Colin Farrell (Miami Vice) bookend this impressive tale of a man on the road, tired and seemingly on his last legs. Second winds don’t come often and Cooper here concocts a very realistic statement on life, career and family all told through the eyes of some mixed up adults trying to do good and the demons we all face.
During Crazy Heart you really do get a textbook look into a man coping with the human condition. Here alcoholism is tackled head on and Bridges nails down the way this drug can take you over and never let go. Consider this performance to rank right up there with some classic renderings on this medical condition. Hurt here shows up everywhere and you see the pain and conflict Blake goes through as those around him suddenly grow apart. And the subject of caring and protecting is also broached with significant tact in a way we can all relate to. Fear on a number of levels is represented well in Crazy Heart. Difficulties in overcoming obstacles are all strongly explored.
For a movie like Crazy Heart to work so well it must feel genuine. Life on the road in whatever avenue you choose can be trying. Entertainers may well face more diverse conditions than others and the realism reflected in this movie, from the singing to the struggles to the fan reactions are all depicted honestly and in an accurate manner. Bridges himself sings his tunes and strums away having performed similar talents in earlier films like The Fabulous Baker Boys. Those that follow this actor may know he has his own band that plays the California circuit. Other musicians and singers will surely be able to comment on this man’s range and the film’s accuracy which local blues legend Jim Byrnes confided in me are all presented here honestly.
Nothing flashy leaps out at you in Crazy Heart. Just an older man trying to cope and the way he changes over time will leave you shaken and stirred and supportive of his conflicted journey. Look for Bridges likely to snag an Oscar nomination for his work here which is certainly one of the best performances of the year in a low key way. Even Colin Farrell makes quite an impact as a fellow musician on a quest for gold which Crazy Heart may repeat at when the Academy this March.
Read more reviews by Robert at www.moviereviewssite.com