Crazy Heart was one of the best reviewed films of 2009, but it had a brief run in my hometown, and I missed it on the big screen. When Jeff Bridges won the Academy Award for his performance as country singer Bad Blake, I knew this was a must-see on DVD. The kudos were well deserved, Crazy Heart is an excellent picture.
The story is a familiar one. A washed-up former star is toughing it out on the road, blowing most of his chances at a better life, and in the end (maybe) getting a shot at redemption. I remember Kris Kristofferson (who Bridges resembles here) playing a guy like this in the 1976 remake of A Star Is Born. More recently, Mickey Rourke portrayed a character much like him in The Wrestler (2008).
The film starts out with Bad Blake playing a gig in a Pueblo, Colorado bowling alley. From there, he is off to a roadhouse in Santa Fe, where he agrees to be interviewed for the local newspaper. Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is the single mother/journalist who Blake takes an instant shine to. He is also offered a chance to make some real money from young star Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), who he had mentored early on.
Blake’s drinking gets in the way of just about everything, from his budding romance with Jean, to Sweet’s attempts to help him out. At home in Houston, old buddy Wayne (Robert Duvall) quietly steps in, but it looks as if the two have been down this road many times. Even though Duvall’s role is tiny, he is (as always) tremendous. Just a look from him at his friend conveys more than a page of dialogue ever could. Crazy Heart ends on a bittersweet note. There are no big surprises, but a melancholic “what if?” feeling remained for me, long after the movie had ended.
Most of Crazy Heart was filmed in New Mexico, and the scenery is gorgeous. Director Scott Cooper uses the endless vistas of the Southwest to convey the romance of living life on the road, even if the reality of it is far less glamorous. The music was written by T Bone Burnett, and really adds to the film. The fact that both Bridges and Farrell actually sing the songs is a huge plus also. In the case of Bridges especially, I could not imagine it being done any other way, the whiskey-aged voice of his is vital.
In addition to the Best Actor award Bridges won, Crazy Heart also took the Oscar for Best Original Song with "The Weary Kind." Maggie Gyllenhaal was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, although she did not win.
The DVD extras include six deleted scenes, of which only one is really interesting. It concerns yet another drunken night in a bar, where Bad Blake winds up stranded with some drunk woman in the middle of a downpour.
The talented loser Jeff Bridges portrays in Crazy Heart is something of a stock character, but that in no way detracts from the stellar performances he and the rest of the cast give. I think this is a film that deserved all of the attention it received last year, and is well worth checking out for both the acting and the music.