Pros: Bridges earns his Oscar, Gyllenhaal, Farrell, Duvall
Cons: familiar, predictable
2009’s Crazy Heart should strike you as an updated variation on 1983’s Tender Mercies in which Robert Duvall played an alcoholic country singer whose romance with a younger woman and her young son turns his life around.
Duvall won an Oscar for his wonderful performance in the quiet, very slow moving character portrait movie. Duvall co-produced HEART, the story of an alcoholic country singer whose romance with a younger woman (who has a son) turns his life around. Jeff Bridges proves to be a good country singer. The music was supervised by T. Bone Burnett.
This is not an original or even necessary movie but it’s entertaining and Bridges delivers a memorable, Oscar-winning performance.. The Writer-Director is Scott Cooper who adapted the Thomas Cobb novel.
Blake’s (Bridges’) life is a mess. The once-famous C/W star has got a lousy gig at a bowling alley with a local pick-up band that he hasn’t bothered to rehearse with. He’s an alcoholic with no respect for himself, his music or anyone else.
This changes when he meets the niece of a piano-playing bar owner name Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who’s writing an article about him for the local paper. They have an intense affair and he accepts her rule that he must not drink in front of her young son. He mostly complies.
Blake feels a little bit of hope and even takes a liking to Jean’s young boy. Maybe he can do a better job with this youngster than he did with his own son who is now 30 and doesn’t want anything to do with Blake.
Blake is handed an opportunity to make a comeback and accepts a gig opening for Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell). Sweet was once part of Blake’s band and has become a country music superstar. He wants to thank Blake for giving him a career, but Blake doesn’t want Sweet’s help.. doesn’t like how Sweet sold out to become famous. Still, Sweet seems sincere in trying to help Blake and he wants Blake to write him some songs that he will make into hits since he’s a superstar. Blake resists the offers even though it might turn his life around.
Of course there’s a few more complications that keep this from being completely predictable. Robert Duvall shows up in a solid supporting role as a father figure to Blake. The film doesn’t go all sappy, which is a good thing and Farrell, Gyllenhaal, Duvall and Bridges all deliver superb performances that make this one very entertaining to watch.
The story may be familiar and even wrap itself up a bit too neatly, but the actors bring an authenticity to their characters that credibly inhabit the worlds of honky-tonk bars, big arenas and antiseptic suburban shopping malls. The dialogue and directing are first rate.
Crazy Heart works because of what the actors are able to do with the familiar situations and story. Music is pretty good for C/W fans (which I’m not).
©2012, Christopher J. Jarmick