Jeff Bridges is one of those actors I never really paid that much attention to. It's not that I wasn't aware of him or that I didn't see any of his movies, no. My relationship with Bridges was more fueled by indifference than anything else. Still, as I take a look over his filmography, it's just littered with strong performances, making me think I should pay closer attention. Just look at films like Starman, The Big Lebowski, The Fisher King, and The Fabulous Baker Boys. There is no denying the man can act. However, all of those performances seem to have been training, everything leading to his performance in Crazy Heart, which just may be the finest of his career.
In Crazy Heart, Bridges portrays Bad Blake, a hard drinking, chain smoking, broken down old country singer, a man who was a star in his day but who has seen his star fade. He travels from town to town playing lounges, bowling alleys, and pretty much anywhere else that will have him while he gets put up in low rent motels. He still has hopes of rekindling his career, but he wants to do it his own way, although the prospect of compromising his ideals is right around the corner.
It is a story we've heard before. What works so well for Crazy Heart is that when you see Jeff Bridges' Blake, you believe that he has lived this life. He is completely and utterly convincing. I look at Bad Blake and believe I could go to the store and find his records, likely on the budget rack, but they are there. It is a moving performance.
The easiest way to describe the movie is to call it the 2009 version of The Wrestler (2008), only instead of wrestling it is country music. Also, instead of Mickey Rourke we get Jeff Bridges and instead of Marisa Tomei it's Maggie Gyllenhaal. Now, it is not exactly the same, but to say there are no similarities would just be wrong. I also have to wonder if my love and affection for The Wrestler in any way colored my reaction to Crazy Heart. I wonder if this because I left The Wrestler feeling much more emotionally affected than I did here. For as good as Crazy Heart is, I did not feel as connected to it as I was hoping or expecting to.