Looking for a respite from the cold, snow, wind, and winter? Then walk, run or ski to your local theater. Because you need a ticket to ride along with Bad Blake and his guitar in Crazy Heart where you can quietly bask in the country and western glow of its old-fashioned log fire as it rolls from Santa Fe to Houston Phoenix in only 112 minutes.
Jeff Bridges' Bad Blake is badass to the bone. He is a beat up, washed up, traveling country crooner. He takes his act on the road because he has no choice. He is his own worse enemy along with the bottle. Blake has never met a bottle he didn't like.
Blake is crazy like a fox in his jealousy of the one man who can help lift him out of his monetary and career doldrums — Tommy Sweet. Bad has some choice expletives for him when he comes a-callin'. Bad is caught between a rock and a country singer. Only Bad must sing for his supper. He must also put aside his deep disdain for humanity in general and Tommy Sweet in particular, who happens to be a former protegé turned country and western star, in order to stay alive. Colin Farrell as Sweet must fight his cliché character. Farrell is nether good, bad nor indifferent as the country star. His role is a minor one that neither damages nor lifts the film.
Sweet makes Bad an offer he can't refuse. Bad news for Bad who has just fallen for Jean Craddock. He needs to work and and he needs some solitude for success. Maggie Gyllenhall's Jean is a real woman who did not see love coming. Maggie's Jean is a work of art. And no wonder that she has been nominated for best supporting actress as Bad's love interest.
Gyllenhall portrays a sweet, passive, young journalist, a local reporter who seeks Bad out for an interview — he happily obliges.The May-December affair that ensues is would-be fodder for the tabloids if only it weren't between an unknown journalist and a long-forgotten entertainer. So, they mix it up with plenty of privacy. Things seem to be going Bad's way but that illusion is soon shattered because nothing ever pans out for an alcoholic in denial with four failed marriages on his resume.
Crazy Heart is based on a novel and directed by nova director Scott Cooper. He has a long filmography but Crazy Heart represents his directorial début. This film is not just beginner's luck, no such thing in filmmaking really, but pure craft. Cooper has taken a good script and made a great film. He takes his time and warms up the audience with a steady hand, weaving a wonderful tale of a broken man with a broken life who gets a second wind when he meets a single woman with a four-year-old son.
The director moves his film from point A to point B in pure linear fashion and it works. No tricks, no gimmicks, no flashbacks, just great filmmaking. I don't mean that in a bad way. No, he has not made a "safe" film — a label usually reserved for vintage directors who know how to U-turn and negotiate curves in a complex or fast-paced movie but don't attempt them. This is not that kind of film and deserves only praise from its critics. Cooper was not nominated as director nor was his film among the ten nominees, but clearly he has directed Gyllenhall and Bridges to great reviews and Oscar nominations. One song, "The Weary Kind," from this film has also been nominated for best original song. Three Academy Award nominations in a first film is an auspicious start for any filmmaker.
There is everything to like about Crazy Heart including the nominated performances of Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhall. He is nearly a shoo-in for best actor this year, I think. I've seen all the performances nominated except Colin Firth in A Single Man. And that's exactly why I see only Jeff opening the car door for Oscar to occupy a front seat.