Movie Review: Crazy Heart
There has been a lot of buzz surrounding this film, and more specifically its lead performance by Jeff Bridges. The trailer for Crazy Heart calls it “the performance of a lifetime,” and some people have gone as far as calling it “this year’s The Wrestler.” The similarities are impossible to ignore, but Crazy Heart isn’t entirely deserving of the comparison. If you haven’t seen The Wrestler, it would be in your best interest to do so right now. Seriously, stop reading this review. You are only wasting more time. If you have seen it or are just flat out ignoring my recommendation, proceed reading the review.
Jeff Bridges stars as Bad Blake, a down and out Country music singer who travels from city to city in a 1970’s Silverado, playing in bowling alleys and saloons. The small-time concert promoters provide him with a local backing band every night, and a free bottle of whiskey on the really good ones. He hasn’t written a new song in years but still puts on a good show for the dozens of fans that show up for his shows, minus a few alcohol induced interruptions in the set.
At one of these shows, he meets a small-time music journalist (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who he forms a relationship with. Things start to look up when Bad scores an gig opening for a hot new Country artist named Tommy Sweet. Sweet is played very convincingly in his short appearance by Colin Farrell, who completely makes us forget that he is an Irishman. Bad used to serve as a mentor of sorts to Tommy, and Tommy asks Bad to write him some new songs. He needs the money so he gives it a shot. While Sweet provided the encouragement to write the songs, Gyllenhaal and her four-year-old son serve as the inspiration. I’ve never been a huge fan of hers, but she does some really good work here as she wrestles between her feelings for Bad and what might be best for her son.
The rest of the film basically plays out like The Wrestler-lite. The misfortunes aren’t as tragic, the mistakes aren’t as serious, and the drugs aren’t as hard. Most importantly, the film just isn’t as emotionally wrenching as The Wrestler. I never felt a real sense of desperation with the Bad Blake character.
All of the music in the film is very good but there still seems to be a few too many concert scenes, even though Bridges performs the songs like a seasoned Country music veteran. First-time director Scott Cooper also seems to be a bit too in love with the wide landscape shots of the southwestern states that Blake is touring. The closing shot of the film is beautiful, but its impact is weakened because the same effect is already accomplished a handful of other times in the film. We get it, Arizona and New Mexico are beautiful. We have all seen postcards before.
Crazy Heart is a fine movie that might have been better in the hands of a more experienced director. Regardless, the movie is still very much worth seeing for brilliant performance by Jeff Bridges. Sometimes a movie rolls around that isn’t worthy of the performance at the center of it. This is one of those times.