Rated R for language and brief sexuality, 111 minutes
"Crazy Heart" is a small, affecting movie with a huge performance
Jeff Bridges is one of this generation's most underappreciated actors, giving great performances for years, from "The Last Picture Show" to "Seabiscuit" to "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot," and he gives another superb performance that could likely find him with an Oscar in hand. Playing an alcoholic washed up country singer, Bridges shines in "Crazy Heart," a small, familiar but affecting movie with great timing.
Based on Thomas Cobb's 20-year old novel, "Crazy Heart" is a fictional story about down-and-out country singer named Bad Blake (Bridges), who's going through a major songwriting slump. Playing in small, dinky towns and trashy venues like bowling alley's, Blake is a once-well known recording artist who's broke and who continues to battle substance abuse problems. He falls for a younger journalist named Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a single mother with a toddler, all while trying to put his life and career back together.
Bridges' astonishing, revealing and very vivid performance carries what could've been a cliched film, and it's all due to his strong, Oscar-worthy turn that makes "Crazy Heart" so watchable. He's in nearly every scene, and from the moment he appears on screen, getting out of an old 1970's Suburban that's had as many knocks as he's had, buckling his pants and dumping out urine out of a jug, you know you're in for an interesting performance.
It's really not surprising that Bridges does some of his best work in "Crazy Heart," he's a fine actor who's been giving superb performances all these years (he was the best thing about the recent badly done "The Men Who Stare At Goats"), and his memorable work underscores a prolific career; any awards he gets, and he will likely get many, is deserving. What's really surprising about "Crazy Heart" is the polished, subtle turn from Colin Farrell as one of Blake's students who becomes a huge star. You would never know that this is the same showoff who played in such action films as "Miami Vice" and "S.W.A.T." just a few years ago and has battled his own substance abuse problems.
Director and writer Scott Cooper (largely known as an actor) makes good use of his cast, even if the overly familiar story, based on Cobb's 1989 novel, seems like a rewrite of 1983's "Tender Mercies," and it's none too ironic that the Oscar-winning star of that film, Robert Duvall, is co-producer of "Crazy Heart" and has a cheeky supporting turn as one of Blake's few true friends. Gyllenhaal is good though the romantic angle is the weaker part of the film and Cooper could've benefited by using a slightly older actress in the role.
The bluesy songs for the film, written by country music legend, T Bone Burnett, are also catchy, especially the original song "The Weary Kind," which will likely garner awards consideration on its own. "Crazy Heart" is touching, affecting and realistic, showing that life can be full of hard knocks and can make a decent song too. Bridges' brilliant turn is one of his best performances, one of the strongest turns by an actor in 2009, and for that reason alone comes highly recommended.