Crazy Heart

February, 2010, Drama

Directed by:Scott Cooper

 

 

 

Crazy Heart

 

 

Great looks and a buffed physique can go a long way in Hollywood, but filmgoers can always be relied upon to fall for a terrific voice too - - and that quality has allowed Jeff Bridges to seduce audiences ever since he abandoned series television for the big screen in 1971’s The Last Picture Show. (It doesn’t hurt that he also possesses superb acting chops.) But think of the manner in which his syrupy voice has added depth and immense appeal to such diverse films as Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, Heaven’s Gate and Starman, not to mention his classic stoner (The Big Lebowski.) Even when his roles don’t appear to call for compelling tonal sophistication (Seabiscuit’s easy- going racehorse owner or the manically-obsessed businessman of Tucker: The Man and His Dream) Bridges infuses his lines with a vibrancy which suggests an actor always near the top of his game. That consistent level of performance becomes increasingly impossible to top, but Bridges has outdone himself in this rambling story about a boozy country and western singer/songwriter nearing the end of a long and disappointing career with his health in shambles but his musical instincts still very much intact.

 

Writer/director Scott Cooper adapted this paean to country music from novelist Tom Cobb’s book of the same name, in the process providing Bridges with a serious chance for Oscar fame a few weeks hence. He plays Otis “Bad” Blake, a promising performer whose penchant for whiskey, chain smoking and marriage (a thumb short of a full hand) have pushed his career from concert venues to gigs in small town saloons and bowling alleys. In his late 50’s and wearing every day of it around his overly ample waist and in the deep creases of his bearded face, Bad still manages to rouse himself for an evening’s performance which typically feature one-night back-up bands and ladies of a certain age who don’t mind a horizontal quickie with a man who can still look awfully attractive through a booze-filled haze.

 

When Bad is asked by one of his rotating sidemen to agree to an interview with his niece, Bad encounters a life-altering event in the person of Jean Craddock, (Maggie Gyllenhall) a thirty-something reporter with a 4 year old son and a desire to learn more about the man behind the legend. After his typical come-ons fail miserably, Bad finds himself easing into a comfortable companionship with Jean and her adoring son Buddy which blossoms into a serious familial opportunity until his addiction to alcohol (and his refusal to come to grips with the role it has played in destroying much of his life) forces Bad to confront demons long held in abeyance…

 

Crazy isn’t without its clichés - - the young protégée ( a surprisingly effective Colin Farrell) who feasts on Bad’s songwriting creativity but refuses to give his mentor a career boost, a long- sober friend (Robert Duval) who nurses Bad through repeated bad hangovers into an addiction center and the final if muted success sobriety provides… but Cooper’s crisp, profane script and the polished songs written for Bridges (one of which has been nominated for an Oscar) combine with the performances of the leads to fashion a warm-hearted and surprisingly affective story of redemption. 

 

Gyllenhall has been nominated for an Oscar in the Best Supporting Actress category, but it’s Bridges’ work that’s really outstanding - - the physical transformation he bring to his role and the disgusting habits with which he imbues his character would be completely off-putting without the sense of hang-dog candor the actor provides his character and the gentleness with which he greets the disappoints and personal humiliations which make up the bulk of Bad’s daily life. If this almost over-the-hill character is personally gross, he’s at least honest about his abundant imperfections and when he stars to sing one of his rueful meditations about life, love and the mistakes he’s made, it’s impossible not to wish him well.

 

 Having just turned 60 and with nearly 70 movies to his credit, Bridges caps his career with this brilliantly fashioned portrait of a sow’s ear who turns himself into a rather diffident silk purse.

 

The Verdict? Buy a ticket and let Bridges seduce you with one of the most attractive rascals to come to movie screens in a very long time.  

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