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Snapshot: Brilliant acting by Jeff Bridges and some solid performances
by others hold up a movie that has an incoherent, low intensity albeit
realistic story. The score of the movie (which is mostly country music)
is also pretty good.
Highlights from the plot: "Crazy Heart" is not your average motivational movie with strong dialogue and high intensity drama. It follows a sober and a rather unusual romantic story. The story is loosely knit by a few incidents that follow the life of a very talented country musician who is also a raging alcoholic and a chain smoker. On one hand the lack of grandiose drama makes the story more plausible and real but at the same time some may feel that its devoid of depth or intensity.
What's Good: Witty humor (its pretty funny), The acting is top notch especially Jeff Bridges, The score is good (especially if you like country music), The treatment given to the story is fresh in some ways
What's Bad: The story does not SEEM to go in any particular direction. The pace is also a tad slow. The chemistry between Jeff & Maggie is kinda offbeat
Who should watch it: People who really appreciate character development and who expect multi- dimensional characters etc. (Jeff Bridges character might be a treat for such folks), folks who expect a good score
Who should avoid it: Anyone who seeks out some high tension drama, powerful dialogue and a fast paced story should stay away from this one.
Saw an early screening of "Crazy Heart". "Crazy Heart" is a very good film for one reason. Many critics have praised it and will continue to do so. Many critics will write it off as "just another washed-up musician struggling to overcome their addictions and weaknesses and make sense of things", etc. In a way, they are right. In a way, this is another one of those movies. But, because of Jeff Bridges' absolutely amazing performance, this film is more than that. If you want to see an actor breathe real-life into their character, endow truthful subtlety in their part, and absolutely nail a role that they were born to play, then you need to see Jeff Bridges rendition of Bad Blake. I believed that Bridge's portrayal of "The Dude" in "The Big Lebowski" was the essential role of his career, but after seeing this performance, I've changed my tune. It's true that we will not be witnessing cinematic history with the incredible plot or awe-inspiring film-making. However, if you are a fan of acting and want to see one of those performances that comes along every once in a rare while, please check out this film.
In his directorial debut, Scott Cooper adapts Thomas Cobb's Crazy
Heart, the story of Bad Blake, a washed-up country star with an alcohol
addiction. The film stars Jeff Bridges, in the lead role, and Maggie
Gyllenhaal as Jean, a young reporter is taken in by Blake's heartache
Cooper's direction is of subtle greatness. The film is quiet, slow-paced, but works. It's never meant to be loud or over-the-top, which some may be expecting; it's a beautiful written song about life thrust into a two-hour sympathy riot. Bridges, who will surely receive Oscar attention, is reserved, charismatic, and raw. Bridges' 58-year-old Blake is one of the better performances of the year. There are obvious comparisons to Robert Duvall's performance Tender Mercies, with critics believing a possibly similarity to Mickey Rourke's work in The Wrestler, which is certainly not the case, this is unique in its own way. Bridges doesn't overcook the role which would have been easy, he's effortless and sings quite well.
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Oscar snubbed for her works in Sherrybaby and World Trade Center, is nearly average in her work. She's coy with Jean and underplays her, but unlike Bad Blake, her role doesn't call for it. Jean is a bruised, kindhearted, and devoted mother to her four-year old son Buddy (Jack Nation, as cute as can be), but uneven in narrative forming.
Robert Duvall is brief, and nearly ineffectual. As the bar owner Wayne, he offers a humanity for Blake outside of woman, which is needed in the film, but in the end is unmemorable. Also sharing this boat is the talented Colin Farrell, who's both likable and adequate, but upstaged by scenes with Bridges.
The only thing more beautiful than Bridges' performance is the song "The Weary Kind," which is submission for Best Original Song for the Academy Awards. This is one of the best songs written for a film in the last ten years. Delightful lyrics and exquisitely executed, the song one of the rare occasions of the perfect song for a perfect film, given the film's nature.
While Crazy Heart doesn't offer anything insightful to the realm of cinema, it's simple, uncomplicated, and honest, which you can't appreciate. For a first time out, Cooper does an admirable job.
'Crazy Heart' is a simple but emotionally resonant movie about a
57-year-old alcoholic country singer whose career is on the skids.
There's not much to the story, but not much is necessary with Jeff
Bridges as the singer, Bad Blake; Colin Farrell as Tommy Sweet, his
handsome acolyte, now a big country music star; Maggie Gyllenhaal as
Jean Craddock, a small-time New Mexico journalist with a four-year-old
boy who has lousy luck with men, and falls for Bad; and Robert Duvall
as Wayne, the singer's clean-and-sober bartender-protector.
Bridges, Gyllenhaal and Farrell have never been better, and Duvall is always pure gold. This movie is Bridges' chance to give a master class in acting, and he does not disappoint for a minute, but he's not alone in the spotlight, and the depth of support he gets is what makes Crazy Heart worth watching.
A lifelong musician and many-talented artist (painting, photography, ceramics) whose thespian preeminence in Hollywood has yet to win him an Oscar, Jeff Bridges inhabits the songs he sings on screen as convincingly and seamlessly as he fits into the shambles of a life and mess of a body that is the film's protagonist. This musical integrity is important because Bad Blake is one of those disintegrating performers whose art has not faltered, though his life has. The songs he sings are his own, and when he's on stage, he's alive. The rest of the time he's lying, deceiving, or numbing out. A great line is when he's asked by Jean where his songs come from and he replies simply, "Life, unfortunately."
A parallel to Bridges' work in 'Crazy Heart' is the similarly lived-in and authentic performance as a waning dance hall singer by Gérard Depardieu in Xavier Giannoli's 'The Singer'/'Quand j'étais chanteur,' a richly atmospheric little film released but barely seen in the US. But the milieu here is very different, and as American as 'The Singer's' is French. First time director Scott Cooper has said this movie tells "Merle Haggard's' story and Kris Kristofferson's and Waylon Jennings'. As Bad Blake, Jeff moves like Waylon, he has Merle Haggard's songwriting ability and Kris Kristofferson's charisma." Of course Bridges looks a lot like Kristofferson, and Bad Blake puts his hard times into his felt, authentic compositions as Waylon and Merle did. The songs are composed by T Bone Burnett, and are fine; more authenticity is added through other songs such as Townes Van Zandt's "If I Needed You" and Waylon Jennings' "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way." Burnett composed the songs with the late Stephen Bruton; and the closing ballad, "The Losing Kind," with Ryan Bingham. Farrell as well as Bridges does his own singing, and his Irishness merges fairly convincingly into a slick country style. Just as Bad Blake is the mentor of Tommy Sweet, in real life Robert Duvall has become a mentor of the actor-writer-director, so his presence anchors the film and presides over it. Bridges knew of the movie but held off from committing to it till he learned his friend Burnett was in, so this is project that must have felt right, ultimately, for all concerned.
Bridges' Bad Blake is so authentically blousy and pathetic he's hard to look at sometimes. He's always drunk and at an opening gig at a Pueblo, Coloradi bowling rink, throws up in a back alley between songs, while the young pickup band he's saddled with has to fill in. In Santa Fe Jean shows up to do an interview, and a May-December romance develops as Bad woos Jean against her better judgment and plies her little boy with homemade pancakes (the boy is hungry for a man in his life and Bad oozes charm, when he's conscious). Gyllenhaal, who played a character struggling with addiction and recovery herself in 'SherryBaby,' gives a performance as a women warring inside with loneliness and need. Her scenes with Bridges are central to the movie, and the chemistry is strong between them.
Blake hasn't written songs for some years, but when he meets up with Tommy prior to a date opening for him to an audience of 12,00 in Denver, Tommy begs him to write some for him. In this way the screenplay manages to steer a course, perhaps a bit too easily, between success and failure. Clearly Bad Blake is still working, even if it's at lousy venues, and to prove it he's always on the phone to a hard-nosed Manager (James Keane) who's finding him the best gigs he can. This eventually leads to a contract to compose songs for an album with Tommy.
'Crazy Heart,' which was written by Cooper from the eponymous novel by Thomas Cobb, is perhaps a bit schematic about the up-down-up trajectory of the talented loser, but it manages to be pretty realistic about the degeneration that is terminal alcoholism. Here, however, it's not a slide into hell like Mike Figgis' Leaving Las Vegas. Though only by the skin of his teeth, and with multiple ailments a car crash reveals, Bad is surviving. So when the moment comes and he hits his bottom, he still has the strength to straighten out. Maybe the fast-forward finale is a bit too upbeat, but the memory the movie leaves is, of course, of Bridges with a bottle, a guitar, and a sad sweet song, and of some of the year's best movie acting.
The pleasure to see Jeff Bridges playing a man ready to start a whole new life, a day a the time, is indescribable. And as if that wasn't enough, love is the inspiring factor the motivating force. I've been a fan of Jeff Bridges since I first saw him in "The Last Picture Show", then "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot", "Fat City" right up to "The Big Lebowski" He's never less than totally there. Truthful and powerful even when he plays characters that are the opposite of truthful, the opposite of powerful that even don't seem to be there. "Crazy Heart" reminds us. He's one of the greatest American actors of his or any other generation. His face when he realizes he lost the little boy will haunt me forever. At the Golden Globes, in his devastating charismatic, humble way he thanked his parents. I thank them too Jeff, you are a wonder.
There's a shot in a scene near the beginning of Scott Cooper's Crazy
Heart that's so jarring that it has to have been a choice, but I can't
for the life of me unpack what it means. Jeff Bridges plays forgotten
country legend Bad Blake, drunk and down on his luck, a one-time great
forced to play tiny New Mexico bars for tiny over-the-hill crowds. As
he cruises into town in his rusty Suburban and empties out his pee
bottle, he realizes that his manager has booked him to play in a
bowling alley, where he begins to drink prior to the show. There's a
shot of him at the bar that is an exact visual echo of Bridge's most
famous character of recent years, the similarly booze-addled Dude from
The Big Lebowski, famously bellying up to a bowling alley bar, talking
to a cowboy. It's odd and unmistakable, as Bridges' the Dude in the
Cohen Bros. first-cult-then-full-blown classic dopey caper movie has
become iconic, his sozzled, affronted complaints as firmly lodged in
the minds of movie folk as Travis Bickle's spookyisms or the monologue
by the guy in Network who got mad and told everybody to go yell out the
Where the Dude's drunk and drugged wanderings seemed blessed, though, by a cinematic ray of Private Eye light that kept him safe through to the end of his caper, Bridges' Bad Blake is broken down, on the way out. A member of his backing band that he had mentored, Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), has moved on to find incredible success on his own and exists, but is unwilling to do an album of duets that Blake and his lizard-skin booted agent need to pull his career out of the toilet. He meets a young journalist (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who herself has had a rough patch and their bruised romance sees Blake back on some kind of road to life.
Bridges inhabits the role as thoroughly as is seemingly possible - he quite simply is Bad Blake. Much of the music (composed by T-Bone Burnett, who among other things did the music for the Coens' O Brother, Where Art Thou?) Bridges sings himself and he's got a not-half-bad country voice, but it's in the busted-boot gait and whisky-sipping slouch that Bridges carves the character out. The rest of the film is almost as good as he is. Cooper's script has a habit of freely dipping into the well of cliché - the whisky soaked forgotten crooner lost in the shadow of inauthentic "new country", salvation and sobriety at the feet of a sad single mother who doesn't want to be hurt again - but then at the last minute, swerving away into if not original then certainly less clichéd territory. Tommy Sweet, when he makes his entrance into the story, is not half the villain the first half of the film would have you believe, and Gyllenhaal's single mom is something a hair's breadth more interesting than a sucker for punishment, loyal to a fault. The film could have been a disaster, and at times it's half-way there, but there are enough smart choices in the script and good performances from interesting actors that the film ends up (for the most part) overcoming its own flaws.
It does country well, and it's as authentic as a film can be to a genre of music (like punk, or metal, or rap) that is itself so utterly cliché ridden that arguments over whether so-and-so is "real country" are a common fervent pastime for fans and the artists themselves. Bad Blake seems as much of a real, breathing human being as Merle Haggard or Waylon Jennings, which is obviously somewhat of a back-handed compliment. Crazy Heart's story is an old one: a busted down, down and out nobody screws up, hits bottom, and becomes somebody again. We've seen it before, but it has enough soul and Bridges' Blake has enough human hitch in his step, that it manages to be moving, if not refreshing. 7/10
"Petition me no petitions, sir, to-day; Let other hours be set apart
for business. To-day it is our pleasure to be drunk . . ." Henry
Fielding, Tom Thumb, The Great
When a memorable performance transcends a mediocre plot, the result is a memorable role flanked by a forgettable film. Such is the case of Jeff Bridges as Bad Blake, a sodden wreck of a country singer still making a living playing at bars and bowling alleys in Crazy Heart, an apt title.
Not Garth Brooks or Willie Nelson, but well-known enough to be offered free booze and free ladies, 57 year old Bad is like his 30 year old pickup truck, still serviceable but ready to bust at any moment. Bridges is a believable singer/drunk, not overdoing either but pathetic enough for you to want to strangle some sense into him while he still can perform. And write songsif he can get to them, especially at the encouragement of Tommy Sweet (a convincing, real life bad boy Colin Farrell), young country singer now flourishing partly because of Bad's good mentoring. The descent into cliché is quick as Santa Fe reporter Jane (Maggie Gyllenhaal) falls for him during an interview for her paper. She has a four-year old childwell, you can guess the rest of the film through romance and rehab but maybe not denouement.
The addition of one of the producers of the film, Robert Duvall, as Bad's friend and club owner Wayne, is a welcome allusion to Duvall's Oscar performance as country singer Mac Sledge in Tender Mercies. Add T Bone Burnett as a song writer and producer of the film and you have a promising pedigree. Unfortunately director/writer Scott Cooper may not have caught the fire of the original novel by Thomas Cobb.
I will nominate Bridges as one of the best actors of the year. That's the best I can offer you besides the New Mexico landscape and cloud dotted blue sky. As for watching another story about an alcoholic singer, I'll stick with Colin Firth drinking a little in A Single Man or Michael Sheen in the Damned United. The drunken hero is one of my damned.
Jeff Bridges' incredible performance is not the only aspect of this movie that deserves praise. Bridgeswho will most likely win an Oscar for his performance (sorry, Colin Firth, it was just your bad luck to deliver your best performance in the same year)inhabits the character of Bad Blake so thoroughly and convincingly that you forget you're watching Jeff Bridges; he truly gives life to this alcoholic but talented country singer who is searching for some joy and redemption at the end of his career. Maggie Gyllenhaal is wonderful in a supporting role as Blake's girlfriend, and Colin Farrell is a genuine surprise as Blake's protégé, Tommy Sweet. (By the way, who the heck knew that Farrelland Bridges, for that mattercould sing so well?) Bonus: the soundtrack is awesome. Interesting cinema synergyRobert Duvall (still a working actor at the age of 79), who produced this film and has a small supporting role, won a Best Actor Oscar in 1984 for playing a character similar to Bad Blake in "Tender Mercies."
People have already started the comparison, and not without some
reason, of Crazy Heart with last year's film about a down-on-his-luck
old timer in his chosen profession, The Wrestler. And sure the
comparisons can be made quite a lot, not simply due to the same studio,
Fox Searchlight, distributing the films, or that the main characters
are practically washed-up in what they do but keep chugging along, or
that they have medical problems, or that they're estranged from their
kids, or that the woman in their lives is a stop-go-stop affair. The
good news is the movies can stand on their own terms, but somehow, at
the end of the day, I would probably prefer Aronofsky's gritty
naturalism over the first time director Scott Cooper's more slick
indie-treatment, with country and wide-open spaces substituting for
grisly New Jersey.
And yet you should go see Crazy Heart, and it's not just for Jeff Bridges as Bad Blake, a country musician, 57, who has been on hard times for a while and whose main problem, alcoholism, prevents him from being an unstoppable musical force (think Johnny Cash with a little extra blues) and kind boyfriend to Jean (Gyllenhaal, also quite good). Well, it could almost be all for him - it's marvelous to see him transform into this character, somewhat reminiscent of 'the Dude', but with a more cynical view of life and his former partner (Tommy, surprisingly done by Colin Farrell), and how we really do want him to get better. It's a sympathetic portrait done by a master of American film acting, and even if you don't particularly love Country music it's a worthwhile venture to see him in it.
That's the other thing: the music is actually (and this is coming from a not-big-fan of Country music save for some exceptions like Cash and Williams) quite superb. All of the songs are charged either by a real drive to bring the house down with the joy of playing live, or by the tender moments such as the "Weary Kind" title track, which may, along with Bridges, get T-Bone Burnett his first Oscar nod. The music is one of the things that makes Blake's journey wonderful to watch, even if, sadly, the story is lacking in ways that other movies (not just The Wrestler) do much better. Only a third act twist seems to be compelling, as the rest of the story kind of coasts the characters along, the only roadblock Blake's drinking.
As sometimes happens, it's a towering performance in the midst of an otherwise competent, enjoyable but slight debut feature. But it is something, and often interesting.
Here is the film that the ridiculously talented Jeff Bridges finally
won an Oscar for, and deservedly so. His performance is the gleaming
highlight of this film in the best way possible. He is playing washed
up country singer Bad Blake, trying to overcome alcoholism and a dying
career. The story is very touching, and how could you expect anything
less than incredible from a character study piloted by Jeff Bridges.
The film has a very organized focus on Bridges' character but he is
also backed by a fantastic supporting cast. Maggie Gyllenhaal plays an
aspiring reporter who interviews Blake, only to fall in love with him
shortly after. Her performance is equally touching and feels so real
alongside Bridges. Colin Farrell plays Tommy Sweet, an old friendship
of Bad Blake's that went sour somewhere along the line. And then of
course there is the small yet significant role of Bad Blake's long time
old fishing buddy Wayne, played by the masterful Robert Duvall. The
limited number of scenes between Bridges and Duvall are some of the
best and most sincere of the movie. Crazy Heart is a great film to
watch in order to see fantastic actors do what they do best... act.
The character development in Crazy Heart embodies the film's strong suit, which is the wonderful acting ability of the cast. There is not a moment when you don't believe in these characters and you truly feel that they are sincere and real. It is also just so incredibly satisfying to watch legends like Bridges and Duvall act side by side in beautiful and perfectly fitting roles such as these. The story of Bad Blake itself is very interesting, but the characters are where the heart and soul of the film lay. The plot leaves something to be desired, but it doesn't fault the movie as much as it could when you have such great actors filling the roles of such articulated characters. Admittedly, the film drags a bit towards the middle and the climax of the film doesn't hit as hard as I would have liked, but it leads into a cathartic and slightly cheesy ending, which leaves you wanting more, but emotionally satisfying nonetheless.
Now, I am not a fan of country music at all, but in the context of this film I absolutely loved it. It is so beautiful and touching that it would almost be a crime to say you didn't like the music while watching its fitting place in this film. And as if I haven't praised the actors in this film enough, I have to give even more kudos to Bridges and Farrell who took voice lessons to sing their own songs in the film, and holy crap do they sound amazing. You would think Jeff Bridges had been a country singer all his life. If you're not a fan of country music I wouldn't recommend listening to the music before you see the movie. But after you see just how perfect the soundtrack fits the film you will love the music. The music makes this film all the more sincere and is one of the only contexts I will ever enjoy country music.
Crazy Heart isn't perfect, but I'm willing to go as far to say that Jeff Bridges is. I can get past the imperfections of the storyline and the slight melodramatic feel the last third of the film emanates when the film boasts a cast as good as this. This is a solid film that is a pure delight to watch. And best of all, it nabbed Jeff Bridges a long overdue Oscar win.
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