Jeff Bridges has been the best thing about a lot of movies for years, so it’s only fitting that he finally got his Oscar. From Fearless to The Fisher King, from King Kong to Cutter’s Way, his list of great performances is legion, and rarely does he phone it in. For Crazy Heart, Bridges plays a washed-up drunk of a country music singer named Bad Blake, and the film charts his relationship with Jane Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal) as he finds himself at a dead end creatively and physically. It’s a lived-in and vivid performance, and it elevates a familiar tale with the gravitas of a great performer. My review of Crazy Heart is after the jump.
The film opens with a great preamble, as Bad Blake is so low on cash he can’t buy his signature brand of booze. A store manager buys it for him, as long as he promises to dedicate a song to his wife. You worry that Blake is going to forget, but he doesn’t, he’s just so drunk he has to leave in the middle of the song to go throw up in the alleyway. He taught the stadium filling star Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell) everything he knows, and Sweet wants to look out for the guy and hopefully have Blake write him some songs, but their relationship is a little adversarial, partly because Blake can see his own failure in not being at Sweet’s level. He meets Jane (Gyllenhaal), and the two begin a romance, but she’s got a kid. In her sees something that might motivate him beyond the dive bars and juke joints he plays to make a meager living.
None of this is particularly original, and in many ways it mirrors the narrative of The Wrestler, but this is a slightly more positive film and with films like this it’s all about the details. Bridges has long been a master of the small moment, and there’s so much thought and energy that comes through him here. You want to see him come back from the edge and figure it out. Though Gyllenhaal is saddled with a character that exists to cause reform, she does solid work and it doesn’t feel straight cliché. Better off are Farrell, and in a small part producer Robert Duvall as his bartender friend Wayne. I would love to see a buddy comedy with Bridges and Duvall, as I think it would be a lot of geriatric fun. But I was very excited for Farrell, who does a lot with a little, and manages to make you excited about an actor who was thrust too fast into the spotlight. Some day he may yet emerge again and people might take to him. And the soundtrack is solid, the songs feel right, and you do have the benefit of T. Bone Burnett being behind that side of the film.
Written and directed by Scott Cooper, it’s a solid piece of work, best for allowing things to happen, and never getting in the way. It’s hard to say if this is just an Oscar picture, it should age better than, say, Scent of a Woman or Blue Sky or any number of “it’s their turn” wins. That sense may settle over the movie, and the performance is the movie, but Bridges is enough of a meal in this film to make it – perhaps not a minor classic – but a solid film with great music and great performances.
Twentieth Century Fox presents the film in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1. The transfer is excellent, as to be expected. Extras are limited. There are ten deleted scenes/alternate cuts of songs (28 min.). The deleted footage was wisely cut, and one sequence is redundant as all get out. There’s also a brief interview with Gyllenhaal, Bridges and Duvall about what brought them to the film (3 min.) and the film’s theatrical trailer. Slim Pickens, indeed.
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