Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Short Review: Crazy Heart (Scott Cooper, 2009)

In Crazy Heart, Jeff Bridges portrays an alcoholic and down-and-out country music singer-songwriter, who decides to turn his life around after he meets a young journalist and her four-year-old son. Directed by Scott Cooper, his film is an adaptation of the 1987 novel by Thomas Cobb, who based his central character on Hank Thompson. Bridges performance was influenced by notable country music legends, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Merle Haggard, and earned him his first Best Actor Oscar at the most recent Academy Award ceremony. Otis 'Bad' Blake (Bridges) is a rundown former country music hero, now struggling to make a modest living by performing one night stands at rundown hotels and bars across Southwestern United States. Traveling alone in his prized vintage car, he spends his days on the road. He has no family, a history of failed marriages and a heavy drinking and chain smoking problem that have left him in very poor health. He meets Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a divorced journalist with a four-year old son, Buddy, when she requests an interview with him, and the two enter into a relationship. Feeling rejuvenated he mends a professional relationship with Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), a successful and popular country music artist that Blake had previously mentored. He performs as a lead act to Tommy's show, but is shunned when he requests a duet album with Tommy, who only wishes Blake to start writing songs for him to play, noting that he is still one of the best in the business. With his drinking problem now threatening his life, Blake drives his car off the road and seriously injures his ankle, and then later, when he is trusted to take care of Buddy, he loses him at a shopping mall when he stops at a bar to have a drink. After losing Jean, his most heartbreaking setback yet, he begins to attend AA meetings to sober up, and ends up writing one of his greatest songs, 'The Weary Kind', which he sells to Tommy and becomes a commercial success.

I have always found music biopics to be fueled by excellent central performances, but rarely transformed into great films. Crazy Heart continues this trend. It is certainly a moving and inspiring tale, and Bridges creates a character, often loathsome at times, who is welcoming and likable. Bridges puts his heart and soul into this role and has a blast, but also captures Blake's sensitive world-weary pain and frustration. Maggie Gyllenhaal (who received an Oscar nomination too) and the often underrated Colin Farrell are both very good support. His descent into alcoholism is a tragic road for someone endowed with so much talent, and it's really heartwarming to see him find himself in the end. The film never delves too deeply into his alcoholism, staying with his musical interests, which was a positive.

The film is rarely engaging, however. Lacking a evident story, it is more comprised of important episodes in his life that bring about the desire to make the changes, and then ultimately the results. Crazy Heart is languidly paced and the cinematography was unimaginative. But this is not a biopic of a glam-rock star, it's of a down-to-earth country music singer, so it's hard to expect something that makes you jump out of your seat. Even if you are not a fan of his music; I thought it had a gruff but catchy appeal, for what it is, Crazy Heart is a solid film fueled by a beautiful performance from Bridges.

My Rating: 3 Stars

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