Movie Review: Crazy Heart

The first thing you should know about Crazy Heart – a simple yet searing portrait of a tired and broken country music artist named Bad Blake – is it will bring to Jeff Bridges (Iron Man) his first-ever Academy Award win out of five nominations over the last 40 years.  You should also know if you live in Cache Valley and plan to see this movie, you’ll have to head south to Ogden, where it’s showing at the Megaplex 13 at The Junction.  With all the crap jam packed into the multiplexes lately, Crazy Heart is a burst of fresh, inspiring cinema, driven by the haunting old school twang of the film’s soundtrack and the emotionally resonant acting from Bridges.

Crazy Heart is directed by Scott Cooper and adapted from the 1987 novel of the same name, written by Thomas Cobb. The main character, Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) is a mélange of country and Western music bad boys, namely Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Merle Haggard. Blake’s past is best summed up in a line from one of his songs, “I used to be somebody, but now I am somebody else.” The person he is now is an alcoholic drifter, wandering from one small-town, low-paying gig to another, all the while splitting time between cheap motels and his dilapidated old car. It’s never fully explained, but part of Blake’s wandering seems to revolve around a former protégé, Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), and the assumption he’s left Blake alone in the wake and dust of his newfound success.

At a gig in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Blake is interviewed by a local reporter, Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhall), and the two become fast friends and a romantic attraction stirs in both their hearts. Jean, like Blake, has suffered disappointments and failures in the past, and perhaps this uniting of two broken and bruised souls is the catalyst for the brief love they share. If Crazy Heart has a fault, it’s that we know where the story is going midway through the feature. We know Bad and Jean can’t be together and we know somehow he’ll break her trust because of his abuse of alcohol. And that’s just what happens. That could be seen as a sad, sobering juncture in the movie, but this story isn’t about love and romance, it’s about life and redemption, however clichéd that might sound. Jean wasn’t the love of Blake’s life, but she was the spark that saved him.

I absolutely loved Crazy Heart and Jeff Bridges is utterly compelling and believable as Bad Blake. I’d say I was surprised, but really we’ve come to expect this from Bridges. From Starman to The Big Lebowski to even Iron Man, his acting is strong, bold and his characters are always stunning. I also can’t say enough about the soundtrack, on which Bridges, Farrell, and Robert Duvall all do their own singing. Credit T-Bone Burnett (who also worked on O Brother, Where Art Thou?) for another masterful musical creation. I particularly liked Fallin’ & Flyin’, as well as the oft played The Weary Kind.

I encourage you to give Crazy Heart a chance and make the trip to Ogden or Salt Lake City to see the movie. If you’re like me, you’ll walk away with the subtle and hope-filled feeling that no matter what or where life has taken you, it’s never too late to find yourself and be happy. And when it comes down to it, cinema that leaves you with that breathless optimism is indeed great.

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