Directed by: Scott Cooper Cast: Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall Running Time: 1 hr 50 mins Rating: R Release Date: December 18th (limited)
PLOT: An old country singer (Bridges) with a drinking problem tries to pull himself together with the help of a young lover (Gyllenhaal) and the support of those who have always loved his music.
WHO'S IT FOR?: Country music fans who crave another film about an entertainer washed up by his inner demons. Fans of Jeff Bridges will be satisfied watching him take on some serious drama, but they won’t be blown away.
EXPECTATIONS: From one glance at the trailer, it appeared that Crazy Heart was about a country music legend who tries to get back in the songwriting saddle one last time. I expected Bridges to be more grizzled than usual in this emotional underdog story that would probably echo the ups and downs of The Wrestler, but with a different soundtrack.
Jeff Bridges as Bad Blake: He’s stuck in a rut, but people still like him. We can get to his "crazy heart" if we just sit down to have a drink with him. But the only thing we really know about the “legendary” Bad Blake is that he’s gotten old, and age has put him on the wayside. Basically, his backstory is too open for its own good. Sure, Bridges does well in portraying a dusty entertainer who seems to have lost his mojo. He can certainly fit into the boots of a country singer who has more whiskey in his body than water. But this was Bridges’ opportunity to do something remarkable. The story doesn't let this happen. Score: 6
Maggie Gyllenhaal as Jean Craddock: Is it some type of joke that she likes a man named Bad after swearing off dudes that are no good for her? Regardless, she has even less support from the script than Bridges’ character. Gyllenhaal’s sweet Jean has even more gaps, and these are less forgiving: we don’t know why she loves him in the first place, and we are never given a reason throughout their entire relationship. It’s not even clear how she hurdled the line from professional journalism to random hook up so quickly. This vacancy of story helps slightly discredit their relationship and the film at the same time. Score: 4
Colin Farrell as Tommy Sweet: The idea of new country vs. old country is presented through this ponytailed superstar who is modeled after such modern performers like Brad Paisley. He is made out to be a type of no-talent evil by Bad Blake's attitude, but when we meet Tommy we learn that the younger entertainer has simply been influenced by earlier generations of the country genre. It's an odd casting choice to choose him to play Kenny Chesney, but Farrell does fine with an accent, and does even better as a singer. Score: 5
Robert Duvall as Wayne: As the old friend to Bad, he offers some kickstart advice that influences the singer to change his ways, and puts some hope in his heart. But he’s only around for a handful of scenes, and never seems that important until he gets his own title card in the closing credits. I guess that’s the kind of thing you can swing when you’re an executive producer. Score: 4
TALKING: Bridges mumbles a lot, especially when slurring his voice under the influence of cheap whiskey. There’s no need for subtitles, and the dialogue doesn't miss a beat. Score: 7
SIGHTS: With Crazy Heart's encompassing wide shots of the state's landscape, Texas rarely looks this good. As far as portraying their musical ability, both Farrell and Bridges prove to be competent guitarists. None of that Tinseltown fakin' over here. Score: 6
SOUNDS: Farrell sounds especially good on the title track, but that song itself just isn’t that great, especially compared to other songs written in movies. Bridges sounds authentic in a few of his tunes, with Blake’s “I Don’t Know” probably standing out as the most memorable. Both received vocal training for the film, and their practice is at least evident. Score: 6
BEST SCENE: The art of songwriting is given a rare glimpse as we watch Bad piece together his ultimate song, but the scene makes the creative process appear too brief. ENDING: We can be forgiven, but things don't have to return to how they originally were. QUESTIONS: So where did Buddy disappear to, anyway? And what did Jean end up writing in her article? REWATCHABILITY: Not likely. There are no spectacular performances, and the songs are about average. It's difficult to imagine someone watching this more than a couple of times. OVERALL
This big shot for Jeff Bridges fails to be a great movie because it undermines the important relationships in Bad’s life. The chemistry between the old singer and young reporter Jean is not supported with enough explanation to help us really feel their love for one another. Bad's partnership with his ex-guitarist Tommy Sweet, which could've offered some compelling insights about new country always being faithful to its roots, isn't given the screen time it deserves. Hell, even Bad’s relationship with songwriting is skimmed over, even though it's a skill that is so important to his life. Crazy Heart instead prefers to be about a man's reliance on the bottle. The film waters itself to a mildly boring tale of alcoholism, and how some hurts we do under such an influence can’t be redeemed. But with the charming nature and maturity of Bad, it only seems like laziness is his true roadblock, not cheap whiskey.
The country community is sure to embrace Bridges’ Bad Blake as a new poster character for forgiveness (thank God he doesn’t take a melodramatic trip to church), and Crazy Heart offers a lot of warnings about how the glamorized vices of country music can easily become excessive. But as a universally aimed drama, this story feels incomplete, as it doesn’t explain what really makes this man's heart beat as well as it could have.
FINAL SCORE: 5/10