Tuesday, 16 February 2010
FILM REVIEW: CRAZY HEART
20th Century Fox/Fox Searchlight Films
Bad Blake is a has-been country singer reduced to playing bars in the middle of nowhere. When we first meet him, he's about to play a one night stand in a bowling alley. That he's an alcoholic goes without saying, and if Bad hasn't yet hit rock bottom, he doesn't require Google Earth to locate it.
But on a stopover in Santa Fe, Bad agrees to an interview with local journalist Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and he is smitten. A single mother of a 4-year-old with a track record of dating the wrong guy, Jean should know better but there's something about the world-weary yet charming Bad that draws her in. Against her better judgement a relationship ensues, although she is not wearing a blindfold or even rose-coloured glasses; Jean keeps one foot very much on the ground.
Some critics have dubbed Crazy Heart this year's The Wrestler and that's fair enough, although it's nowhere near as tortuous, physically or emotionally, as that film. And much like Mickey Rourke, Jeff Bridges, though by no means on the comeback, finally has a role worthy of his talent. There is no showboating in the performance, no 'look at me' moments. Bridges inhabits Bad Blake so wholly we believe everything he does. We also care what happens to him.
Bridges can also carry a tune but then, if I'd seen The Fabulous Bakers Boys (1989) I wouldn't be so surprised. All things being equal, the list of great actors never to have won an Oscar will be reduced by one in a couple weeks' time.
Writer-director Scott Cooper's directorial debut (adapted from the novel by Thomas Cobb) doesn't take us anywhere we've never been before – cinema is littered with films about the down and out given one last shot at redemption – but he does so skillfully and quietly, with performances to match his approach. Gyllenhaal and Colin Farrell, as Bad's one-time protege, Tommy Sweet, who is now bigger than Bad ever was, take what would ordinarily be cliched roles and invest them with a humanness.
Also integral to the film's success is the music. Producer T Bone Burnett, who provided the music for Walk The Line (2005) and the Coen brothers' O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000) once again works his magic, this time with the help of the late Stephen Bruton. But ultimately it's Bridges who makes Crazy Heart a song worth singing.