REVIEW: Crazy Heart

28 02 2010

Whenever I wrote about “Crazy Heart” back in December in an Oscar Moment, I lampooned it for its obvious similarities to last year’s “The Wrestler.”  Turns out, I was right.

But “The Wrestler” was a killer movie.  And so is “Crazy Heart.”

Sure, it loses some originality points, but that doesn’t make the character study any less effective or entertaining.  It also doesn’t suffer because it adding elements of another great movie, “Walk the Line,” with its background in country music and some very catchy songs.

“Crazy Heart” follows washed-up country singer Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) trudging through an increasingly insignificance as a performer.  He has gone from packing in crowds in Nashville to empty bowling alleys in Santa Fe.  He certainly isn’t doing himself any favors with his raging alcoholism and his refusal to churn out any new material.  But over the course of the film, he realizes, although somewhat reluctantly, Bad Blake begins to change his ways.  The main impetus comes from a younger journalist (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who looks beyond the singer for her interview.

I had my doubts about Bridges’ performance, assuming that it was just another one of the Academy’s lifetime achievement awards.  While his inevitable Oscars triumph will indeed be a much deserved award for a very deserving actor, Bridges is legitimately worthy of receiving the statue standing on the merit of this performance alone.  He creates a true character in Bad Blake that we can care about and become emotionally invested in even though we can predict his course fairly easily.  The little things that help to turn Bridges into this character aren’t very obvious, yet I never felt like I was watching Jeff Bridges.

The only other actor in the movie with a significant role to critique is Maggie Gyllenhaal as Bad Blake’s love interest.  For me, she really didn’t do anything to distinguish herself from the multitude of similar performance.  But don’t interpret this as me saying that she was bad.  It’s a performance very much in Gyllehaal’s comfort zone, and she’s pleasant to watch.  She just doesn’t astound or amaze.

I had the CD before I saw the movie, and it didn’t stand out to me much.  Now that I’ve seen it, I really do like it.  Bridges sings about half the tracks, and he has a surprisingly strong voice.  The big track on the album is “The Weary Kind,” sung by Ryan Bingham and nominated for the Academy Award.  For me, the real standout is “Fallin’ & Flyin’,” which is covered twice on the album (once just by Bridges as well as a duet with Colin Farrell).

In a roundtable discussion with some fellow nominees this year, Bridges shared some very interesting opinions on the future of acting and the potential threat of motion capture to it.  He said that his craft will never be rendered irrelevant because “what we do as actors is the ultimate special effect.”  With his performance in “Crazy Heart,” Bridges reminds us of the power of the actor.  It doesn’t take computers to be wow an audience.  All it takes a man who understands and realizes his role.  A- /

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4 responses

1 03 2010
Branden

Hmm… you are probably the only person that loved this film. I thought it was nothing special. It tried to be “The Wrestler”, but it’s not.

1 03 2010
Marshall

I know that it isn’t “The Wrestler” (I haven’t written a review of “The Wrestler,” but it has a solid A in my book). But I respect it for being a nice little movie. Sure, it’s not incredibly ambitious, but it’s the kind of movie that I’m going to enjoy watching on HBO and FX in a few years.

2 03 2010
Castor

Good review Marshall, I did enjoy this movie as well despite the overused cliches. Jeff Bridges gives a great performance and the songs are easy on the hears.

11 03 2010
mcarteratthemovies

Maybe I’m biased. Scratch that; I KNOW I’m biased. I read the book and loved it, and my main problem with “Crazy Heart” the film was the way the ending was so hunky-dorey and watered-down. I’ve got no problem with an unoriginal story if the acting’s good enough. Jeff Bridges was.

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