CRAZY HEART
This is a song I wrote about a dude named The Dude.


Golden Mug

NOMINEE:
Song (“The Weary Kind” by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett)

Theatrical Release Date: 01/08/2010
Director: Scott Cooper
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall

An alcoholic musician past his prime falls in love with a single mother, messes things up and must confront his inner demons before he can find true peace in his life. Sounds like a country song, right? Well, I guess that’s why “Crazy Heart” uses that musical genre to deliver this intimate tale of a man finding his way in life, even when he thinks it may be too late to do so.

Based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Cobb, director/screenwriter Scott Cooper went with Jeff Bridges to bring the character to life and everyone’s favorite Dude knocks the role out of the park.

Sure to be on the short list of nominated actors this awards season, Bridges easily and predictably sells the cranky, drunk, sardonic elements of Bad Blake – a country legend relegated at his age to playing dive bars and bowling alleys, while his protégé (Colin Farrell) is selling millions of albums and living the dream. (To both their credit, the singing is handled by the actors and sounds quite good; Bridges more so but I expected worse from Farrell).

But where Bridges shines are in the quiet moments, as his character finds moments of clarity amidst pulls from the whiskey bottle and post-concert sexual diversions. His relationship with an eager Santa Fe journalist (Maggie Gyllenhaal) brings all of his flaws and shortcomings to the surface and Bridges’ struggles to balance his alcoholism with the desire to be a better man.

The film is very much a one man show, as Bridges dominates every scene (through script and performance), but the supporting cast is largely up to the task as well. I expected a larger sense of inauthenticity from Farrell and although he seems disinterested/distracted in some of his scenes, it tends to work in the character’s favor. Robert Duvall gets a cameo here and plays the affable old codger role he’s been so adept at playing for many years.

Sadly, if there is a performance that didn’t quite ring true for me, it was Gyllenhaal’s. A talented actress, the age gap between her and Bridges was a bit too glaring and the manner in which the character breaks down at times just felt forced. For sure, many of the issues there lie in the script so I don’t place full blame at her feet, especially as too often it felt like their relationship skipped a lot of steps and that there were scenes on the cutting room floor somewhere.

And if a rewrite could have been done, maybe it would have helped with the sense of pacing and how the ending feels like something tacked onto the end after a test screening. Having never read the book, I’m not sure what elements were changed but just as it seems some of the relationship scenes were missing, the plot progression also makes it seem like the book covered a lot of ground and rather than distill it down a bit further, Cooper just fast forwarded through some sections, thinking the audience would just piece all of the emotional progress that the characters would undergo in between.

Still, even without a love for country music I enjoyed the songs and would much rather hear Bridges sing one at the Oscars this year than a number of others I fear may make the cut. A 3 out of 5, “Crazy Heart” is a fairly generic tale of a man hitting rock bottom and finding his way, but a repeated viewing of the film still kept my attention and Bridges’ performance makes the experience well worthwhile.