Title: Crazy Heart (2009)
Director: Scott Cooper
Stars: Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Duval, Collin Farrell
Jeff Bridges has never won an Academy Award in his whole career. He has been nominated on five occasions, but never won. Sad but true. If you ask me, he should have won it back in 1991 for his portrayal of Jack Lucas in Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King. But he didn’t. He wasn’t even nominated for that one! Which goes to show you just how much the “members of the academy” don’t know. But here we are, the 2010 Academy Award Nominations are finally in and aren’t we all glad that Jeff Bridges got an Oscar nomination for Crazy Heart? Yes we are! This is his fifth nomination! You know how this Oscar thing goes…sometimes they wont give an award to an incredible actor (even if they deserve it!) just so they can keep him sweating it out for years and years. It’s the academy’s way of saying “we know you are good! Keep cranking out good movies and in a year or two…we’ll think about it!” And then they go and give them an award for their least amazing movie. Which is probably what’s going to happen with Crazy Heart. Its not Jeff Bridges greatest performance to date, but it will more then likely be the one he ends up winning an Oscar for. Still, Crazy Heart isn’t a bad movie, we’ve seen it a thousand times before, but it’s not a bad film.
Story centers on Bad Blake (Bridges) a country singer who has seen better days. He used to be ultra famous, cranking out hit after hit of country songs, until a life of booze and complacency destroyed his former glory. Now he simply exists instead of living the life. This is kind of sad because he is an extremely talented guy, and everyone knows it, except himself. One day, a young female journalist requests an interview with him. This young journalist ends up being Maggie Gyllenhaal, he lets her in and gives her the interview, but only so he can get in her pants! She decides to let him in, and pretty soon old Blake is back trying to redeem himself. Trying as hard as he can to establish a relationship with her. You know, go back to being the man he used to be. But you know how it is, old habits die hard and pretty soon his old habits get in the way. Will he ever make it back from his drunken stupor?
Here’s the thing, I actually despise country music. It’s not that my ears explode when I hear it or anything, but I just don’t like it. Period. I’m pretty sure that I’m not alone in this. So why did I end up seeing a movie about the life of a country singer? This movies incredible cast! That’s what drew me to it! Jeff Bridges plays Bad Blake, a very down on his luck kind of guy. Used to have it all; doesn’t have it now because he is a drunk. Bridges wallows in the self loathing and self pity very well. Bridge’s had done it before in characters like Jack Lucas in The Fisher King were he also played a guy who used to be famous, but isn’t anymore. He also played a happy looser in The Big Lebowski. One of the Coen Brothers funniest masterpieces. So he’s no stranger to playing characters like Bad Blake. Characters that have hit rock bottom. Maggie Gyllenhal turns in a solid performance (as usual) but in my opinion, she still needs a film that truly makes her shine on her own. Robert Duvall plays Bad Blake’s bartender buddy, who always backs him up. And finally, Collin Farrell plays it cool as Bad Blakes protégé. The guy whom Bad Blake taught all the secrets of country music to. So a solid cast elevates this movie to higher ground. Higher then this movie had any right to.
The big problem for me with this movie is that it’s nothing original. At all. In fact, my favorite movie of 2008 -Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler- did the same thing a million times better then Crazy Heart ever did. Sadly, what Crazy Heart does is follow the formula set by The Wrestler too damn closely. You almost feel like you are watching the same damn movie! Right down to Bad Blake wanting to reconnect with his estranged son, and getting the cold shoulder while at it. You kind of get the idea that Bad Blake has abandoned writing and singing because of how he ignored his son. Yet the film never really explores this, we never even get to see Bad Blakes son. You also get the feeling that Bad Blake has never really had it bad, he gets payed every now and then, he isnt really hitting rock bottom, he is just being stubborn. So this movie is really about a stubborn dude, who wants to drink for drinking sake. The one big tragedy in his life, having ignored his son his whole life is set aside, like some unimportant side story. When in fact it should be crux of the film. So its like The Wrestler, only not as good.
Much like The Wrestler, Bad Blake tries to make things right, but old habits die hard and you know how it goes, pretty soon, drinking and boozing get in the way of happiness and he messes things up yet again. Problem with this movie is that Bad Blake isn’t half as charming as Mickey Rourke’s Randy the Ram. You watch Randy the Ram going down the rabbit whole and you feel a certain kind of compassion for him, but I have to say I didn’t really warm up to Bad Blake as much as I did to Randy the Ram. All Bad Blake has to do is sit back and wait for the royalty checks and go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. They also compare this movie a lot to The Big Lebowski, saying that this is “The Dude” all over again, but instead of having a weed obsession he has an alcohol obsession. I don’t agree with that either. The Dude is one funny guy, again, he is a looser but he is extremely likable. Bad Blake feels like a character who’s life has been sucked out of him. Save for some scenes where he is being ultra sweet to Gyllenhaal’s kid, he is lifeless and charmless character. Except when he wants to get into a lady’s pants or wants some free booze, then he charms the hell out of anyone. Which kind of makes you hate him a bit. But hey, here’s looking forward to some much deserved recognition for Jeff Bridges! In my own personal crazy heart he isn’t going to win an Academy Award (if he wins) for this movie. If he wins it, it'll be for all the countless other great performances he's given us through time.
Rating: 3 out of 5