“Crazy Heart” was nominated for a few Academy Awards for the 82nd annual event, including Best Actor for Jeff Bridges and Best Original Song for “The Weary Kind.” Both of those awards it won without the slightest of doubt. Jeff Bridges was essentially a shoo-in victory for several critics. But just how good was the movie itself? Being a limited release movie originally, I had to wait until just recently to witness the film for myself.
Bridges plays a washed-up, heavy drinking, constantly smoking country-rock star by the name of “Bad” Blake. Who was once a big name in the country music circuit is now reduced to performing small shows in bars, bowling allies, and the like. He is frequently on the road, driving not in a tour bus, but his own battered and beaten Suburban by himself. Bad’s marriage track record isn’t the greatest either, seeing as he has been divorced four times.
Instead all of the country fame and fortune went to one of Bad’s students, Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell). Tommy even claims many times that he attributes all of his success to his “mentor.” A bitter and reluctant Blake has just been booked as the opening act for one of Tommy’s shows and the two catch up with each other offstage. Tommy proposes that, since he hasn’t been able to come up with new material as of recently, Blake should write a few songs for his group to perform. His proper royalties will be repaid back to him if and when the songs become successful.
Blake also in this time forms a romance with a much younger reporter named Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who is the niece of a bar owning piano player Bad met on his journey. Jean has been divorced one time before and still looks after her four-year old son, Buddy (Jack Nation). While only able to see each other in small intervals at a time, such as when Bad is breaking from touring or when Jean has a spare moment, their relationship strengthens with every moment.
Jean and her son really do put Bad Blake’s life in perspective for himself in many ways. He realizes how much he has screwed up previous instances in his life, such as many desertions of former families and children. His drinking problem gets brought to light when he totals his truck on the way to visit Jean. The doctor says that his lifestyle will ultimately destroy him in the long run if he doesn’t immediately stop what he’s doing. Bad genuinely wants to change for the better, it is just a question of whether or not he can after so many years of excess.
Jeff Bridges really does put up one of the best, if not the best, performances of the past year with Bad Blake. He encompasses all elements of a memorable character: humor, struggle, depression, happiness, tragedy, etc. But most importantly, as with nearly all of his roles, Bridges comes off as very comfortable in the roles he is given. Blake’s charisma in interacting with Jean, and especially with young Buddy, feels more genuine than life itself at times. Bridges has an uncanny knack for this kind of emotion and it is no surprise to me at all that he won for Best Actor this year.
Of course, his performance wouldn’t be possible without a truly amazing script behind it. Let me tell you right now, “Crazy Heart” has one of the single most precious and engaging screenplays of the last few years, let alone of 2009. The writer/director Scott Cooper captures humanity at its very finest. It’s shocking that the most honest portrayals of human nature could be found in mainstream films and not just in literature and other mediums of the like.
Now if anyone is concerned or even turned off by the country music theme set around the film, do not be hesitant in the slightest. Being a self-proclaimed metalhead myself (translation: I hate country), the numerous country tracks did not grate on my nerves in the slightest. Even at certain moments, I enjoyed what I was listening to, specifically the award-winning “The Weary Kind.” Songwriters T-Bone Burnett, Stephen Bruton and Ryan Bingham masterfully know how to create authentic country songs dealing with the respective emotions that the film also exposes.
It is a shame that I already conceived and posted my Best Movies of 2009 list, because you’ll hear from me right now: “Crazy Heart” is a flippin’ masterpiece if ever there was one. It would be dangerously close to the top of my list if it were to be included. Like a more grounded version of “Up In The Air,” the film depicts a life-changing experience caused by the love of its protagonists and the conflict with the characters exposing their true colors.