Friday, August 20, 2010

Crazy Heart

Directed by Scott Cooper.
2009. Rated R, 111 minutes.
Jeff Bridges
Maggie Gyllenhall
Colin Farrell
Robert Duvall
Jack Nation
Paul Herman
Tom Bower
Rick Dial

Country music legend Bad Blake (Bridges) is trying to regain his former glory by traveling across the country performing in rundown bars, bowling alleys and any other place that would have him. He’s broke and hasn’t written a new song in years. He’s the epitome of washed up. However, he still has his name. It’s enough to keep getting him gigs, groupies of advanced ages and far more whiskey than he should drink, though he tries valiantly. When Jean (Gyllenhall), a much younger than he reporter, comes calling for an interview he falls head over heels.

All of this sets the stage for a remarkable performance by Bridges. Every single moment of his work rings true. Before now, the role most people identified with Bridges was that of “The Dude” in The Big Lebowski. In The Men Who Stare at Goats, he plays a military version that character, one that somehow tricks the people in power to give him a little of his own. Consider Bad Blake a real world version. There’s a real sadness and loneliness to the constant party that his life has become. In every town, he plays with a different band at a different dive, sleeps with a different woman in a different hotel room while getting sloppy drunk and puking all along the way. Somehow, it’s all the same and aside from the vomit, none of it is his. Bridges conveys this brilliantly.

We quickly understand why he’s so into Jean. She represents a stability and happiness he’s never known. Just how unstable his life has been becomes more apparent as the movie moves along. We also understand that she is reluctantly going against her better judgment. She’s clearly following her heart and not her head. The movie’s title may actually refer to her.

Gyllenhall is excellent in her role and as Bad’s love interest, obviously she plays off Bridges and he, off her. This aspect works well. For me, though, the performance that really makes Bridges’ work what it is, is that of Colin Farrell as country music superstar, and former Bad Blake protégé, Tommy Sweet. The casting of Farrell is a stroke of genius. He’s the opposite of Blake, and Bridges for that matter, in every way. Most of us who know anything about him would never have dreamed of giving him this role. Nothing about him says country singer. Yet, that’s precisely why he works so well. His glossiness serves to authenticate our hero.

Sadly, it’s a case where the performances are better than the actual movie. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not at all bad. It’s actually quite good. However, after a certain event involving Jean’s son Buddy (Nation), it goes on autopilot. We know what’s coming and the film dutifully follows the path it laid for itself. Still, Jeff Bridges is worth the price of admission. I will warn you, if you just can’t stand even a note of country music, steer clear. If you’re a fan of the genre, or at least willing to overlook it, you’re in for a treat.

The Opposite View: Sean Burns, Philadelphia Weekly

What the Internet Says: 7.4/10 on (8/20/10), 92% on, 83/100 on

MY SCORE: 7.5/10

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