The Bad and The Beautiful
"Crazy Heart" is like the country & western version of "The Wrestler", it has a storyline about an old singer, a former star whose career has long gone down the pan and along with that has his health as he spends his days on the road going from one back water gig to the next whilst getting blind drunk and having one night stands. The similarities between the two movies are very obvious but just different enough to make "Crazy Heart" an interesting if slightly obvious storyline. But in a strange way you don't really watch "Crazy Heart" for the story, you watch it because this is an Oscar winning performance by Jeff Bridges, so good that you ignore that much of what happens in the story can be expected and just enjoy an actor not delivering a performance but becoming a character.
Once a major Country & Western star, Bad Blake's (Jeff Bridges - How to Lose Friends & Alienate People) career has gone the way of his life, down hill. Now after many marriages he finds himself playing in the bars of bowling alleys where in-between songs he drinks himself into a stupor before miraculously finding some woman to spend the night with. But that all changes when he meets attractive young journalist and single mum Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal - The Dark Knight) who takes more than a passing interest in this man whose talent is blighted by his self destructive need to drink. But despite his best efforts to straighten himself out and reclaim the life and career he once hand his self destructive tendencies keep on stopping him, threatening the happiness he has found with Jean and her son Buddy (Jack Nation).
Like so many movies the actual storyline to "Crazy Heart" isn't that original. We may have a country & western singer at a low ebb in his career but it is no different to many other movies which focus on someone who once was at the top of their game and are now struggling near the bottom and as already mentioned it is in some ways similar to "The Wrestler". As such "Crazy Heart" plays out in a way that is interesting but easy to predict from Bad Blake meeting someone who gives him a reason to try and clean up his act through to a health scare and then one mistake which threatens to spoil all the hard work he has put in to clean up.
But whilst for the most "Crazy Heart" follows a predictable path, although the ending is a pleasant surprise to what you may be expecting, it is in the actual detail it becomes interesting. When Bad Blake falls for Jean you also feel that because she has a 4 year old son Buddy it is his chance to make amends for abandoning his own son when he was just a child. And whilst he tries to stay of the alcohol when near young Buddy, the way he reaches for a drink the minute he is alone makes it far more interesting. It is these little things which add layers of depth and interest to what is as already mentioned quite a routine storyline.
Now the thing about "Crazy Heart" is that it could have ended up a very average movie if it wasn't for one thing, and I am not on about the country & western soundtrack which is surprisingly good. That one thing is Jeff Bridges who doesn't deliver a performance, he doesn't act but he becomes Bad Blake and makes him real. From the moment we clap eyes on him, getting out of his run down vehicle and emptying a bottle of piss on the floor to the way he immediately heads for the bar at the first gig this is a very real character. And what is ironic is that Bad Blake should repel us, he is a lazy drunk who looks a mess and somehow manages to get himself one night stands where ever he goes but Bridges makes him likeable because we can feel his pain, the career which has gone down the pan and the struggle to write new material weighing heavy on him. It's almost as if when Bridges hasn't been starring in movies he's had a secret life of a musician on the road, it is that authentic.
So good is Bridges that the brilliant performances from Maggie Gyllenhaal as Jean Craddock, Colin Farrell as country & western star Tommy Sweet and Robert Duvall as Blake's friend Wayne are all over shadowed despite none of them doing anything wrong.
What this all boils down to is that "Crazy Heart" is a very good movie and one which is a pleasure to watch but it is because of what Jeff Bridges brings to the movie rather than the storyline itself. In fact the storyline for the most is routine, the tale of a former star at a low ebb looking for redemption and one more chance has been done countless times. But it is Jeff Bridges and the fact he becomes Bad Blake which makes it so interesting, so entertaining and to be honest at times quite literally spellbinding.