Crazy Heart (PG-13) ★★★★

Jeff Bridges in His Finest Performance to Date

This film is not a musical, but it is most definitely about the world of music where musicians can rise to stardom and then fade away into nameless obscurity. Jeff Bridges stars as a worn down, alcoholic country-western composer and singer appropriately named ‘Bad Blake’. His performance is as riveting as Mickey Rourke’s in The Wrestler last year; although a much gentler film to view. Crazy Heart has the added advantage of a talented co-star, Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Dark Knight 2008) as Jean, Bad Blake’s love interest. The script is great and is enhanced by an outstanding original musical score. Country-western music is usually not my first choice, but I found the film to be compelling and soothing as the music sets the tone for heartbreak & redemption.

The film starts out showing Bad Blake (once a big star) pulling up to a gig at a bowling alley where his stage manager has nixed his open bar tab. The manager of the bowling alley is impressed to see that Bad Blake has actually shown up in this small town and tries to smooth over the situation by stating sincerely, “Mr. Blake, I would like to tell you that you can bowl all you want for free and we have a real nice room for you at the Starlight motel!” Of course, the swimming pool at the motel is empty and the establishment has seen better days. Folks in town are thrilled to hear Bad Blake play, although he barely makes it through the gig as his drinking has caught up with him. He sings the poignant song, “I Used to Be Somebody, But  Now I’m Someone Else”.

In Santa Fe, he meets Jean, a very kind reporter much younger than himself – 25 years to be exact. She’d like to write an article about him. Jean begins the first of several interviews which includes shadowing him to performances. They soon commence a love affair and the chemistry between them is superb. In between the gigs, we hear phone conversations between ‘Bad’ and his slick manager played by James Keane. We start to wonder if he can change his ways for Jean and if he’ll be able to rise again in his career. 

The screenplay is penned by Scott Cooper who adapted it from the novel of the same name by Thomas Cobb. Cooper also directed the film and as his directing debut, was nominated by the Chicago Film Critics Association for “Most Promising Filmmaker.” He’s certainly on a role as Jeff Bridges won the Golden Globe for Best Dramatic Actor.

Two more characters  in the film are important to the story and need mentioning: Colin Farrell as Tommy Sweet, a former band member of Bad Blake’s who has made it to the big time and Robert Duvall as his father. Both add dimension to the already talented cast.

After a car accident which lands Blake in the hospital, a doctor lays it on the line stating, “I can fix your broken leg, but you’re going to have to fix yourself! You’re an alcoholic, and overweight, you need to quit drinking, smoking and lose 25 pounds!”  Despite the doctor’s warnings, Blake continues his ‘Bad’ ways; and even Jean can’t get him to stop drinking. 

Bad Blake does have a breakthrough in his career and a chance of a come-back if he’ll write a song for Tommy Sweet. He’s not sure if he wants to write a song for someone else as he’s the one that usually sings the songs he composes. Later in the film, we do hear the Golden Globe winning song, “The Weary Kind” which is performed by the original songwriter and performer Ryan Bingham.

Will Bad Blake be able to turn his life around? Will Jean decide to stay in a relationship with a man 25 years her senior? Burning questions indeed which are all answered by the end of the film.

A touching story about  second chances with the winning combination of  a great script, believable actors, spot on directing and new original music.  This critic is thrilled for all involved, especially Jeff Bridges!

Sarah Adamson © January 2010