Crazy Heart

Crazy Heart

Film review by: Witney Seibold

Written and Directed by Scott Cooper, “Crazy Heart” flows gently from event to event, never really cresting or troughing, eventually leaving us less with hugely dramatic climaxes and easily-encapsulated moral preaching, and more with a calm meditation on aging, healing, and music.

This approach was, at once, calming and mildly frustrating. While I don’t demand that films give me insufferably obvious morals or forced, melodramatic climaxes, in the case of “Crazy Heart” I wish there had been a bit more of a melodramatic structure.

The main character, rundown country singer Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges), is an alcoholic, but it’s not necessarily his alcoholism that’s causing all his misery. He hates having to play small venues, but still manages to find sex from fans, and even love from a roving reporter (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Much to the chagrin of his manager (James Keane), Blake hasn’t written anything in a while, and it seems that he either had writer’s block, or some hidden pain preventing him from writing, but that’s overcome when he… well just sits and writes something. He seems to have a beef with the young hotshot county star Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), but when they finally meet, there doesn’t seem to be any bad blood; indeed Tommy turns out to be quite a decent fellow.

Many critics have compared “Crazy Heart” to Darren Aranofsky’s “The Wrestler,” and I can see why. Both involve an aging star, seemingly past their prime, who are clinging onto the vestiges of their previous lives, despite shrinking venues, growing desperation, and ailing health. Both seem to resent their fallen positions, but are, at the same time, a bit comfortable with the hangdog familiarity of it.

“Crazy Heart” is much kinder and gentler than “The Wrestler,” though. It doesn’t sugarcoat the low life – Bad Blake is seen living in dirty motels, eating horrible food, traveling so extensively he has to pee in bottles, and drinking so hard he has to stop in the middle of sets to puke – but Blake is seen as such an easygoing and peaceful character that we don’t really feel the direct brunt of his suffering in any one scene. Even when, late in the film, an event occurs that makes him have his “moment of clarity,” his catharsis doesn’t occur until later still. Eventually, we do get a complete portrait of the man, which comes gradually.

I’m sorry if this review makes it sound like I didn’t like “Crazy Heart.” I did. I liked it a lot. I’m just trying to convey the film’s evenness of tone. It was a moving drama of a man actually living the very fabric of a country song; the lyrics of his songs are no mere poems. And, what’s more, Jeff Brides gives one of the best performances of his career with Bad Blake. He embodies this man. There is not a stunt or a misplaced twitch in his performance. He takes the “laidback” shtick he is known for, and puts a hidden depth behind it. That he seems to be the frontrunner for the acting Academy Award is no surprise.

Published in: on January 27, 2010 at 10:44 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] I love Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and sad musicians so I feel like this movie is right up my alley. Since hearing the song “The Weary Kind” for the first time this winter, the movie has been on my mind. What do you think, Hart Beat? You wanna watch it with me? (Source) […]

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