16 January 2010

Review: "Crazy Heart"

As a film, Crazy Heart is eerily reminiscent of 2008's The Wrestler. Both films are about aging men struggling to resurrect their careers, both men are substance abusers, both men have a child they have not seen in a number of years, and both men find themselves involved with a much younger woman. Another link between the two films is that Jeff Bridges has been getting awards recognition (and a potential Oscar nomination) for his role as Bad Blake. The Wrestler was a great film, and what makes Crazy Heart a great film is it feels like a unique experience. Crazy Heart is the first film directed by Scott Cooper, using his own screenplay (based off a 1987 novel by Thomas Cobb). It is produced by Robert Duvall (who has a supporting role) and has music by acclaimed songwriter and producer T Bone Burnett. The film may feature a familiar story, but Jeff Bridges performance is so tremendous that the film's weaknesses go mostly unnoticed.

Bad Blake was once a country music star, but now he is a has-been playing in dirty bars and bowling alleys in the southwest. He is a heavy drinker and can barely afford to buy a bottle of whiskey. He has a lot of fans who come to hear his old songs, and lots of women offering to keep him company at night. While in Santa Fe he agrees to do an interview for a young reporter for a local paper. She, Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal), is a divorced mother with a four year-old son. Jean knows that Bad Blake is wrong for her, yet she is drawn to him. Bad Blake is offered a considerable amount of money to open for Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell) in Driving back to Santa Fe Bad Blake drives off the road and breaks his ankle, and stays with Jean for a few weeks. Bad Blake becomes an important male influence in her son's life, but Jean does not want him drinking around her son. The film deals with Bad Blake and his relationship with Jean, and whether or not he can become the dependable man that Jean needs him to be. Robert Duvall stars as Bad Blake's bartender and only friend.

Crazy Heart first opened in December, but it took until the middle of January for it to open in Toronto. It is a small budget film that did not anticipate its own success, and the awards success of its star, Jeff Bridges. Roger Ebert says, of Jeff Bridges performance, that "we've seen this story before. The difference is that Bad Blake makes us believe it happened to him." Jeff Bridges is an incredible actor, with an impressive body of work. His most well-known role is The Dude in the Coen brothers The Big Lebowski, but he has had amazing performances in The Contender, The Fantastic Baker Boys and The Last Picture Show. Crazy Heart is a great film with great music, but it is Jeff Bridges' amazing performance that makes it worth seeing. He has some competition for the Best Actor trophy at the Academy Awards, but if he wins it will be because he deserved it.

My rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.

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