DIRECTOR: Scott Cooper
Not everybody could play a besotted, country music has-been as effectively as Jeff Bridges (not even most besotted, has-been country singers--they'd probably be too self-conscious to get as down and dirty, and slovenly, and pukingly REAL as Jeff gets in this movie).
In Crazy Heart, Bridges is Bad Blake--a hard drinking, chain smoking, peeing in a bottle as he drives along, married four or five times, fifty-seven year old mess--playing gigs in bars and bowling alleys throughout the southwest, where a few people still remember and revere him from his glory days. Indicative of how far he has fallen: At one stop he is offered all the free bowling he wants, but isn't allowed to run up a bar tab because his reputation as a drunk precedes him. But even sweaty, unkempt, antediluvian performers can still draw the aging groupies, (who are attracted to name recognition like Kirstie Alley is magnetically drawn to an ice cream sundae) and Bad still does alright with the one night stands.
But when he meets local Santa Fe newspaper reporter Jean Craddock, (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who seems to be drawn in to his orbit in a similar way, there's a chance for some stability to come into his life. Jean is a divorcee with a four year old son--and Bad's undeveloped father instinct kicks in. (He is estranged from his own son, now 28 years old.)
Crazy Heart is ultimately a film about redemption--and how, when given something to live for, even those of us in free-fall can be motivated to clean up our acts. But it's also about the irreparable damage a life of excess can cause, and the inevitable consequences thereof. The past is precursor to the present.
Bridges deserves his Best Actor Oscar nomination for this one, and appears to be the favorite going in. And Gyllenhaal's superb, heartfelt performance garnered her a nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
Colin Farrel is believable as Tommy Sweet, Bad Blake's former guitar player and protege, who has now surpassed his mentor and become a major star in the modern world of slick, indistinct "country" music. Sweet holds the key to a possible comeback for his aging guru.
Robert Duvall has a turn as Blake's bartender buddy, an authentic good ole boy who has Bad's best interests at heart.
The music in Crazy Heart is as good as the acting. With songs provided by producer T-Bone Burnett, Jeff Bridges does his own singing and has his act down. And when the band got rolling, I wouldn't have complained if they'd played a whole set before the plot picked up again. In fact, Bridges could have a successful side career as a REAL country singer if he wanted to. That is, if anybody wanted to hear real country music anymore. Kanye was right...who the hell is Taylor Swift, anyway?
Crazy Heart is a small, unpretentious film that will cast a big shadow--all the way to the Academy Awards in March.