Crazy Heart is all about Jeff Bridges. Comparisons are already being made to Mickey Rourke's performance in The Wrestler, and I can see the similarities (an aging performer, the search for forgiveness. . .you get the idea). But whereas Rourke's performance was viewed as his big comeback, Bridges's portrayal feels more like the peak of a career that's only gotten better over the years — and it may finally get him the Oscar he so deserves.
Bridges plays Bad Blake, a washed-up country singer who strums his songs in the bowling alleys and bars of small-town America. He's unkempt (his belt is always unfastened or his shirt is wrinkled and open), and he's never without a glass of whiskey. Bad almost seems like a caricature at first — we've seen this sort of down-on-his luck guy before — but thanks to small nuances, Bridges makes Bad feel new. For more of my thoughts, read more.
When the film begins, Bad doesn't have two pennies to rub together, but he finds hope when he meets Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a journalist interested in him for a story. Bad immediately takes to Jean, and his life looks up. He even agrees to do a show with Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), his former protege who's now in the big leagues, even though Bad resents Tommy for his success. It seems that Bad is undoing his past mistakes with the exception of one — he can't stop drinking.
While Crazy Heart almost begins on a comic note as the character of Bad is revealed more and more (he's charming under that hardened exterior!), his alcoholism takes the film on a dark turn, as it reveals Bad's deep flaws that even his singing can't smooth over.
The film has its drawbacks, too. It's a nice, subtle character-study (hence the importance of Bridges's portrayal), but it probably would've benefited from some chopping on the cutting room floor. As for the performers other than Bridges, Gyllenhaal holds her own (even though Jean seems a bit underdeveloped) and Robert Duvall is a crowd-pleaser as Wayne, a bar owner and friend to Bad. Farrell's appearance is obviously unexpected (especially since he's uncredited for his role as Sweet), but I was so caught off guard that I had hard time believing him as a country singer, despite his valiant effort at the accent.
Go if you're a fan of Jeff Bridges or of country music — I was pleasantly surprised at how great Bridges sounds singing the material. I just wish that this road to redemption was a little faster-moving.
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Photos courtesy of Fox Searchlight