CRAZY HEART, 2010
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhall, Jack Nation, Paul Herman, Robert Duvall, Colin Farrell
Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) is a broken-down, hard-living country music singer who's had way too many marriages, far too many years on the road and one too many drinks way too many times. And yet, Bad can’t help but reach for salvation with the help of Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a journalist who discovers the real man behind the musician.
Nominated Oscars: Cinematography, Director, Sound Effects Editing, Film Editing. Sound, Adapted Screenplay
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Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) doesn't just look like a country singer, he looks like a country song. Broken down like an old truck and with far more miles, he just keeps going and going to the next bar, the next bowling alley, the next stage; trying to put his past behind him and maybe grab back just a little bit of the life he once had.
It's probably even worse for Bad than other has been's and almost-was's because he's actually got talent. Not just stand in front of a microphone and make you forget yourself for a little bit performer ability, but real honest to God talent. The kind that lets you write a song that seems like you've always known it, even when it's brand new.
It's awful easy to chalk this kind of thing up to stereotypes, though clichés do usually have a whiff truth to them (otherwise they'd never become clichés). And Bad is certainly a stumbling, singing cliché. But he's also a full-blooded human being, mainly due to Bridges performance.
Even after just a few moments it's easy to see how things went so wrong for him, though the details are left largely blank. How easy it was to end up living pay check to pay check, bouncing from bar to bar, resenting his young protégé (Colin Farrell) mainly because said protégé's handlers won't give him a living anymore.
It takes a young reporter (Maggie Gyllenhall) showing up to interview bad to get that much out of him; he won't even tell anyone his real name. But the way he slowly bounces through life is compelling even if it is very slowly developed. Maybe it's that classic story about gifted artists who creativity compels them to self-destruction; it's the favored story about artists. Maybe because it's fun to observe and fantasize about as long as you don't have to actually taste the consequences. And that's what movies are really fore.
In the kind of thing that only happens to professional musicians and film characters, Jean finds herself drawn to Bad, welcoming him into her life despite her obvious misgivings. And Bad himself, for all his drunken stupor, senses a moment – a last fleeting second chance – where he might still turn things around.
There's two ways these things can go; he can find the courage in himself to buck his inner demons and finally embrace peace and happiness or he can give in and slowly waste away through the dangers of humanity.
It's the best of these kinds of character studies that can leave the answer dangling up to the last minute, and "Crazy Heart" more or less manages that. Mostly because it is so slow in both its build and its climax. It takes its time with just about everything, which is really helpful for understanding Bad, but not so much for drama.
It's worth it though. Bridges' poor, worn down country singer is as well realized as any character he's ever done, and that's certainly something. It may take a while to get going, and to develop, and to wrap up, but there's enough meat there to make "Crazy Heart" worthwhile, even if it is made to last a while