Crazy Heart

By Sean Burns
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 6 | Posted Jan. 12, 2010

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Is there a better actor working today than Jeff Bridges? I doubt it. He’s so comfortable in his own skin, and inhabits his characters with such a laid back lackadaisical air, you’ll never catch him acting. Scott Cooper’s Crazy Heart really isn’t much of a movie, but for at least the fi rst hour, it allows Bridges to do what he does best— hang back and get wasted.

As a washed-up, alcoholic country singer known only as Bad Blake, Bridges raises the bar (har-har) for being shitfaced onscreen, stumbling and vomiting his way to the stage in podunk clubs—only to steady himself on the amps before playing his heart out. The early chunks of Cooper’s film are extraordinary. It begins as The Wrestler of country music, with a keen eye for lousy motels, broke living and dead-end dreams.  Such a shame it has to get all inspirational on us.

Maggie Gyllenhaal, 10 years too young and way too perky for the role, turns up as an alt-weekly music writer (without a day job!) who interviews Bridges’ and inexplicably falls for his woozy, staggering charms. It isn’t long before Crazy Heart’s well-worn grit and authenticity falls victim to bullshit romance and annoying redemption arc. (When I finally go to rehab, I hope I choose a more stable sponsor than Robert Duvall.)

There’s a lot to admire here, particularly a strong supporting turn from Colin Farrell as Bridges’ former protege turned pop-country superstar. Farrell’s annoying earrings and fancy clothes speak volumes about the schism between true, hard-living country music and the shit that fills stadiums these days, and yet the movie still takes his character seriously.  He yearns for Bridges’ authenticity, but understands that Bad Blake’s lifestyle is too steep a price to pay.

Cooper’s fi lm is actually a bigger sell-out than Farrell’s character. There’s such a hopeless drift to the early sequences, bereft of hope and wallowing in grime and squalor, the fi lm loses its identity once it turns into a Hallmark TV movie. Crazy Heart ends up like what might have happened in The Wrestler if Mickey Rourke hooked up with Marisa Tomei and got a second chance from Hulk Hogan. C+

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Comments 1 - 6 of 6
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1. Stephen Leon said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 11:17AM

“Maggie Gyllenhaal is 32. How is she 10 years too young to play an alt-weekly music writer?”

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2. Richard Karpel said... on Jan 25, 2010 at 01:17PM

“I saw the movie. Gyllenhal plays a music writer who works for a newspaper in Santa Fe. It never said the paper was an alt-weeky.”

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3. Anonymous said... on Apr 23, 2010 at 05:40PM

“Thank you Sean Burns! I just finished watching "Crazy Hearts" and felt like I had watched the wrong movie. With all the glowing reviews and the attention at the Oscars, I had just assumed in advance that I would love it. I didn't. Your review summed it up perfectly, and the fact that so many people liked the movie shows how easy it is to entertain the masses.”

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4. Mike Ingram said... on Apr 23, 2010 at 11:02PM

“T-Bone Burnett is a genius at putting music on the screen. I've worked in hillbilly bands and he gets everything exactly right - the cheesy venues, the songs, the audience, everything. Even Jeff Bridges has the look and sound. Unfortunately, when the music ends, the story falls flat in all the ways you mentioned. Watch "Tender Mercies" to see a real redemption story.”

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5. bettyboop said... on Apr 25, 2010 at 06:37PM

“Thanks for not going along with the reviewer crowd. This movie was a disappointment. The Wrestler was worth watching; this one wasn't. But it does do that male fantasy thing of acting as if some willowy, pretty young babe can instantly hop into bed with and fall in love with a guy who's so scraggly, alcoholic and unkempt that you can smell him from your seat.”

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6. kfarad said... on May 23, 2010 at 12:10AM

“haha excellent review!

I enjoyed this movie for good acting and captivating hearty music but I couldn't quite pinpoit what I disliked about this movie. Honestly: thanks for ruining it for me.

Must speak well to the country Red State folk it portrays... to us Blue State folk it's mildly endearing.”


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