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Crazy Heart: I “Crazy Heart” This Movie

So what the boozy aging country star attempting to turn his life around isn’t the newest of ideas? Crazy Heart benefits from three things that work enormously in its favor: 1. The writing and direction of Scott Cooper, who lets the film take a slow pace and doesn’t hesitate to let the camera linger on a moment, filling the movie with more heart than the average. 2. T-Bone Burnett, the soundtrack’s producer and co-writer of many of the tunes, reminds us that a movie about music better have amazing sound and top-drawer songs in order to work. 3. Jeff Bridges, one of the best and most under-appreciated actors of his generation, turns in one of his best performances, and carries the film so ably that I would hope he’d finally get his due and win an Academy Award.

Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) is a former country star, now relegated to playing bowling alleys and saloons in small towns. He has been living inside of a whiskey bottle for the better part of a couple decades, because of the direction his life has taken. His career has fallen from grace, and his protege, Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), is now the biggest name in country music. He has a son who he has never spoken to. Finally, he finds himself unable to write new songs. Then, on tour, he meets Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a young reporter/single mom who has an interest in Bad, and Bad sees himself as part of this family and becomes inspired to write new music. However, the road and the whiskey stand in the way of him and what he wants.

Bridges does some heartbreaking work here. In addition to being a good guitar player and singer, he doesn’t overplay the depressing parts of alcoholism. He gets defensive, he charms people, and he capably hides his illness for the better part of the film. People know he loves to drink, but no one seems to know (including the audience) when Bad is actually sober. This is no Leaving Las Vegas– Bad’s not attempting to kill himself with his drinking, he’s merely trying to find a way to bring himself some peace to make it through the day until he can get what he wants. Then, once he finds what he wants, he’s so stuck in his ways that it’s hard to part from his pattern. This is something even those who haven’t battled alcoholism can sympathize with. As we age, we get accustomed to certain things. To suddenly part from them can be damn near impossible. Bridges brings a sympathy to even the most unsympathetic things Bad does while drunk. It’s what folks refer to as a “star performance.”

The supporting cast, from Maggie Gyllenhaal to Robert Duvall to Colin Farrell (whom I lost a bet over, since I felt there was no way that beautiful singing voice could belong to him… and I was wrong), is all strong. However, the strongest supporting element is the music. The main theme, “The Weary Kind,” which I pray is a lock for the Academy Award for Best Original Song, lingers with you after the film’s over, not because it’s catchy (even though it is), but because it strikes an emotional chord. The whole movie strikes this chord, from the high notes when Bad plays on stage in his element, to the low notes when Bad’s alcoholism puts him and others in danger, especially in one moment that I won’t spoil other than to say it’s every mother’s worst nightmare. Crazy Heart is like a good country song– sure, it’s familiar and it covers similar territory as many that have come before it… but the execution makes even a tried-and-true story feel brand new again.

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~ by russellhainline on February 1, 2010.

One Response to “Crazy Heart: I “Crazy Heart” This Movie”

  1. […] Fox 6. Carter Burwell and Karen O.- Where the Wild Things Are 5. Stephen Bruton and T-Bone Burnett- Crazy Heart 4. Marvin Hamlisch- The Informant! 3. Hans Zimmer- Sherlock Holmes 2. Michael Giacchino- Star Trek […]

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