Old 02-21-2010, 11:07 AM
Scott Cooper's Crazy Heart

Here's the published version of the review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:



Crazy Heart (2009)

What else can be said about Jeff Bridges's performance in Scott Cooper's "Crazy Heart?" He's had just about every accolade thrown at him from every conceivable angle, but he's deserved every bit of it. At the risk of saying what's already been said, it truly is that good of a portrayal of a character that we've seen before, but not quite in this way.

Bridges plays Bad Blake, a washed-up country singer who used to be quite big, but is now reduced to playing in much smaller venues like the bowling alley that we see him perform in at the beginning of the film. At his next concert, he meets a young woman, Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who wants to conduct an interview with him. The questions are ones that he's probably been asked a million times like how he got into music and what he liked to listen to while learning it. However, Bad and Jean's relationship goes a step further when they fall for each other. With Bad being on the road all the time, it's not exactly an easy relationship to maintain.

It's interesting to note that this film was originally meant to be a TV movie, but thanks to Fox Searchlight, it was given a theatrical distribution due to several people saying that Bridge's performance was great. Now, after all of that, he's a shoe-in for the Oscar. Bridge's has been nominated four times before but has never won.

Not only is his performance great, but he has quite the singing voice as well. It's perfect for the type of country ballads that he performs throughout the film. He has that kind of soft country voice filled with longing and heartache which evokes the right mood for the songs. I'm not usually one who likes country music, but these songs, written by T-Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton and performed by Bridges, are an exception.

Getting off the subject of Bridges for a moment, there are some other performances to take note of in this film. Maggie Gyllenhaal gives a wonderful performance as the reporter turned girlfriend. She too has been nominated for an Oscar, but will have a hard time beating Mo'Nique, unless some kind of enormous upset should occur.

We learn that Gyllenhaal's character had been in a relationship before, but that it was not the right guy. He left her with a son, Buddy (Jack Nation) that Bad takes a liking to. Speaking of relationships, in the interview with Bad, we learn that he has been married four times before, and apparently none of them were the right person either. Could it be that these two are right for each other?

Colin Farrell gives a small performance as Tommy, a country singer that became big because of Bad. Bad taught him everything he knows about music including how to play the guitar. Tommy still shows his appreciation for it by trying to help him get a deal for a new album as well as letting Bad open for him at a big show in Phoenix.

Then there's the ironic appearance of Robert Duvall. Ironic because Duvall played almost the same character in the movie he won an Oscar for, "Tender Mercies." That's the film I was constantly reminded of while watching "Crazy Heart," though I would have to say that "Crazy Heart" is better because, silly as it may sound, it has more heart to it.

Some people have also been comparing this to Aronofsky's "The Wrestler,” which is true in part. Both main characters look like they’re just about done with their careers and end up making a really bad decision in the third act, though Bad's is a little more understandable, but still in no way excusable. What Bad does sets off the final events that must happen and lead to a conclusion that is perhaps not what one would expect.

Though we have seen this story before, it is Jeff Bridges's performance that makes this film worth seeing. He makes it look so easy and is able to evoke pity from the audience for a character that is seemingly at the end of his rope, playing venues that most big-named singers would be embarrassed to play in, but he's not beaten yet, not as long as he's got a song in his crazy heart. 3/4 stars.
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