Crazy Heart (2009) - Can't Stop the Movies
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Crazy Heart (2009)

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A good story about a drunken country singer sounds a bit out of place in today’s world.  We’re too obsessed with irony and distance to get down with country’s roots and really explore the pain that some of those songs carry.  It doesn’t help that a lot of mainstream country music has become some kind of unintentional joke.  Thank God for Crazy Heart.

It’s a gentle movie that could have been ironic or grandiose to the point of parody.  But there’s no holding back and, at the same time, no mythologizing the country idol here.  Jeff Bridges brings total honesty to his role as “Bad” Blake.  He’s a country music singer that used to be a star but has fallen to the point where he has to play in bowling alleys to a very select group of fans.  Shortly after getting spectacularly drunk during one of his shows, he meets Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal).  She’s a reporter out to interview him and starts to feel a special connection with him, cultivated during their late night chats.

The scenes between the two of them are so tender it feels like we’re intruding at times.  She slowly falls in love with him and, looking at his fan’s, it’s easy to see how.  He still has a small following by not letting his former stardom get to his head.  Bad still has a genuine love for those that appreciate him and his music, and that (to this point) has all that’s kept him stable in the world.  He may be an ambling drunk, but he carries himself with a sense of pride that still shines through.

Bridges is thoroughly incapable of sounding inauthentic with this material, and is well suited to singing the songs of “Bad” Blake.  Gyllenhaal, on the other hand, delivers the best performance of her career.  Both are excellent because of how subtle they are with their characters.  When you take a step back from the material, and see that their scenes are about an aging drunk singer meeting up with a young single mother, you see where both director and actor could have easily gone too far with the story.  Which, to be fair, has a familiar trajectory.  But director Scott Cooper is always putting a slight spin on the two archetypes to keep them from seeming stereotypical.

Even Bridges relationship with his old protégé is handled with a touch of originality.  Tommy (Colin Farrell) went off to be a country music superstar while Bad kept getting drunker.  They had a split that the movie wisely decides not to focus on, and Tommy still carries a large sense of admiration for his old mentor.  There’s no conflict outside of Bad’s wounded pride and the two reconcile on stage resulting in some beautiful music.

Music that truly is wonderful and surprisingly weighty.  It’s been years since I’ve heard good country music that speaks to the pain of Americans instead of how we’re gonna stick our boot up someone’s ass.  At the bare minimum, Crazy Heart provides some of the dustiest, rugged songs that I’ve heard in some time.  They’ve also come from one of the most unexpected sources.  Jeff Bridges, with those husky traces in his voice, delivers the songs with heavy conviction.  But the real surprise was in Colin Ferrell’s delivery.  He is really very tender with the material and provides another authentic voice to the music.

Which, in the end, is why this movie works so well.  From Bridge’s incredibly solid performance, to his relationship with Gyllenhaal and Farrell, and the great songs sprinkling the land scape, this is an authentically American experience.  There’s no condescending the locals, no laughing at the country music posing – just the truth of life sharing itself with the world through Bad’s songs.

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Crazy Heart (2009)

Crazy Heart is directed and written for the screen by Scott Cooper.
Starring Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Posted by Andrew

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