Review by Jack Foley
JEFF Bridges delivers the performance of a lifetime in Crazy Heart, an Oscar baiting movie that nevertheless deserves its awards recognition.
The actor is quite simply on brilliant form as broken down country singer ‘Bad’ Blake, who is battling booze and poverty by playing to anyone who will listen in dead-end towns across America.
Determined to recover the fame that now alludes him, Blake is given an unlikely shot at redemption by a chance relationship with single mother Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal), her son Buddy (Jack Nation) and his own former singing partner (Colin Farrell)… so long as he can get his act together.
To be fair, Scott Cooper’s movie – based on a novel by Thomas Cobb – ticks all the right boxes for awards recognition given its redemptive theme and the nature of its character’s journey towards some form of self rehabilitation. Hell, it could even be labelled as this year’s The Wrestler if Oscar was handing out comparison guides!
But sometimes it’s not the story, but what you do with it that counts and Cooper ensures that Bridges’ sterling acting is backed by a number of other key elements.
Bridges, for his part, combines the spaced out cool of The Big Lebowski‘s Dude with a genuinely endearing heart of gold, portraying Blake as the type of likeable loser who is willing to please anyone but who frequently fails to deliver by virtue of his drink addiction.
His relationship with Gyllenhaal’s mum is nicely played, even if the age gap strains credibility, while his interplay with both Robert Duvall’s best friend and Farrell’s fellow country performer are exemplary.
Indeed, it’s a measure of Farrell’s brilliance in the role that the film could have used more of him, as the back story between his and Bridges’ characters feels like it may warrant closer attention (and is certainly more believable, at times, than the romantic element that takes centre stage).
Musically, the film also delivers some rousing country moments, thanks mostly to T Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton’s songwriting and Bridges’ convincing delivery.
While Cooper’s direction is suitably authentic, capturing some great American vistas (by virtue of Barry Markowitz’s beautiful cinematography) and the gritty, rundown feel of the bars and bowling alleys that Blake is forced to play in (reflecting the run-down state of his life).
It’s a measure of the film’s success, too, that we continue to root for Blake through thick and thin, even when inevitably straying from the path to redemption whenever the opportunity for a quick bar stop allows.
Whether that’s partly down to Bridges’ hangdog charm, or the nature of how Cooper’s underdog tale unfolds, is entirely up to you. But it’s well worth taking the journey to find out!
Running time: 110mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: June 14, 2010