Crazy Heart follows "Bad" Blake (Jeff Bridges who won an Oscar for his performance) who is a country and Western singer songwriter musician, who once was a big star. As a 57-year-old alcoholic, Bad now goes from one small South West American town to another playing gigs to very modest crowds. We experience his lonely existence travelling on the road in his old car, having one night stands and living in cheap motels, regularly in a drunken haze.
We become privy to his past through his brief interviews with Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhall ) – we learn that Bad has had several marriages, and is without a family.
It is at this point then that Bad takes stock of his life and decides to make some changes for the sake of a burgeoning relationship with this young journalist and her son, and wackiness ensues.
Crazy Heart is a pedestrian story, written and directed for television, although it did get a cinematic distribution. The theme of an aging faded star, has been explored before recently in the The Wrestler.
Like The Wrestler, Bad Blake is at his best when he is doing what he loves, in this case playing Country and Western music. However, unlike The Wrestler, the movie itself holds such segments as its main strength. I grant that such scenes may hold more significance to a fan of the Country and Western genre.
Like Monster’s Ball, the central figure methodically soul-searches, takes stock of his like and goes out to get his groove back. Unfortunately, I hate Monster’s Ball.
The story does not have any real depth. An example of this is when Bad decides to get sober. The scenes of this are too quick and easy. We are not made privy to the amount of pain, suffering and insight that the character undoubtedly went through to achieve sobriety. This may have added much more weight to the protagonist’s perceived feelings for Maggie Gyllenhal’s character, as she is the main catalyst of his chosen transformation. That being said, this may have been deliberate choice on the director’s part to highlight Bad’s friends’ perceptions of him which are fractured due to Bad’s various comings and goings.
Jeff Bridges’ did win an Oscar for his performance. It may have been the stand-out asset of this film, but this should not be a seen as a good thing as one element of a film should not overshadow another to its detriment. What we have here is a fine actor in a sub-par film.
However, like Sandra Bullock’s Oscar award winning film The Blind Side,this film concentrates on a very American theme – Country and Western music, its fans and its stars. Perhaps the significance of these themes are lost or distilled for overseas markets, or just myself.
Its interesting to note that other recent Oscar worthy performances focus on the on-screen representations of the actors who play them, such as George Clooney in Up in the Air, Mickey Rourke in the Wrestler and Ben Stiller in Greenberg (I think it is Oscar worthy anyway). If this is the case, then Jeff Bridges performance in The Big Lebrowski is the one to watch. When asked where the wardrobe department sourced his costume for the dude in The Big Lebrowski by a reporter, Jeff replied simply, “They were mine!”
Crazy Heart has made me want to watch Walk the Line, a movie that won Joaquin Phoenix an Oscar, based on the life’s story of Country and Western star Johnny Cash.
2 out of 5 glasses of whiskey
Luke McWilliams August 2010