Crazy HeartThursday 18 Feb 2010
Director: Scott Cooper
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Keane, Robert Duvall, Jack Nation and Colin Farrell.
Duration: 111 minutes
Adapted from Thomas Cobb's 1989 novel by first-time director Scott Cooper, Crazy Heart manages to rise above the mediocre, thanks to its lead actor, in arguably the best role of his long career.
Bridges' masterful performance as Bad Blake, a washed-up country and western singer, created an Oscar buzz even before the film's release. His efforts here look like earning him that elusive Academy Award at the fifth attempt.
Traipsing across the US in an SUV as battered as he is, Bad is playing the same old tunes to devoted fans. Where he once graced major arenas, the 57-year-old four-time divorcee is only fit to perform at pokey pubs and bowling alleys. Despite this, Bad's love for music endures and he has 'never missed a show yet'.
However, the hard living has blunted his creativity and his manager (Keane) and record company have grown weary of the veteran's antics. Bad has been trading on former glories for too long.
Bad's bitterness is fuelled by the success of his former protégé Tommy Sweet, who is enjoying major success on stage and screen. Some of that acclaim has been achieved on the back of Bad's song writing talents.
He is too proud and jealous of Tommy's success to play second fiddle to the grateful acolyte, who is played with conviction by Farrell.
The aging musician's life looks as if it is taking a turn for the better when he falls for a young, impressionable journalist. Jean Craddock (Gyllenhaal) is a single mother who has made her own mistakes in life.
Through Jean and her young son Buddy, Bad sees hope in life again. Even though his destructive behaviour destroys any chance of it working, the dalliance is the catalyst for the turnaround.
With the help of friend and bar owner Wayne (Duvall), Bad gets back on the wagon after a stint in rehab. Cleaned-up and cleansed of resentment, Bad's mind is clear to write the hits of yesteryear.
Country music can capture real life better than any other genre and here Bad's songs, written by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett (O Brother Where Art Thou), are melancholic and soulful. In particular, The Weary Kind, which has been nominated for an Oscar, depicts a man who has been down but vows to give life 'one more try'.
As a former actor, Cooper allows his stars lead the way and Bridges is not alone in producing a great example of his craft, with Gyllenhaal portrayal's of Jean also worthy of acknowledgement from the Academy.
A feel good movie that avoids the over-sentimental, Crazy Heart is a simple but effective way to make a film to remember.