Crazy Heart

Apparently we are running out of real life self-destructive musicians to make movies about because in Crazy Heart director and screenwriter Scott Cooper gives us a fictional one.  Bad Blake, played by Jim Jeff Bridges, looking like a low rent Kris Kristofferson on a bad day is at the tail end of his career.  He’s had a few minor hits but the profits from them are long gone, spent on booze.  Now he travels the southwest in an old van, playing bowling alleys and small bars.  A gifted songwriter in his early years, he’s all but given up trying to write. He has fans who remember him fondly and who come out to see him, but mostly he sees himself on a downward arc. That is until a reporter named Jean Craddick played by Maggie Gyllenhaall comes along to do a story on him. She stays, becoming his muse as he works on one last great song.

Any film that covers the process of someone drinking themselves to death needs at its heart a great performance and Crazy Heart has one.   Jeff Bridges shows us that brilliant mix of vulnerability and inner strength we like in our flawed heroes. His Bad Blake is, well bad. He misbehaves and is unable to take responsibility for his life. Jeff Bridges’ craggy face shows us every devastating loss he’s had to the alcohol and his itinerant lifestyle. It’s a bold performance by an actor who’s given us nothing but solid work over the years. He even has a decent singing voice when he handles the songs on the soundtrack.  Most of them are by T-Bone Burnett, and they are pretty good. THE song, the one Bad works on throughout the last half of the film, The Weary Kind is by Ryan Bingham, and it should be a minor classic.

Unfortunately Jeff Bridges is the only person taking chances in this film. The story around this great performance is pretty much standard issue. It never ventures very far from the formula that dominates the genre. The dialogue doesn’t really sparkle.  And the other performances are merely adequate.  Maggie Gyllenhaal doesn’t really stretch herself, and even the great Robert Duval seems to be phoning it in.

This is one of those films you see this time of year that has a great performance in a mediocre movie.  In this case the supporting structure is good enough. It could have been better, though.

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