A drunken singer who has hit rock bottom discovers that the love of a good woman is all he needed to raise himself out of his drunken turmoil in Crazy Heart.
Jeff Bridges delivers a stellar performance as a washed up musician who tours backwater pubs across the country living off the fumes of his diminishing fame. His dependence on alcohol has made him a miserable sot barking nastily at those who question his sincerity and worrying only about himself and where his next bottle is coming from.
At one stop, a beautiful young reporter Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal) seeks an interview with the legendary Bad Blake, something he’s all too glad to provide, hoping he can get into her pants by regaling her with impressive stories that overemphasize his popularity and importance. And he was important once, but his vanity led him to take what he had for granted over time. Then his protégé Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell) eclipsed his success and became a broadly popular country singer, something Blake is quite a bit jealous over.
Although he has slept with any number of women, regardless of looks, as long as they are fans of his music, Jean is not an easy conquest. She wants more from him and, as he begins to realize he loves her more than just as a one-night stand, he begins to want more from her and her four-year-old son. But, Blake is still an alcoholic and no matter how good he tries to be, his psychological failings result in a rift between the two.
Crazy Heart is an obvious film. There isn’t a single line of dialogue or event depicted that doesn’t feel cliched or overwrought. Writer/director Scott Cooper, although an obvious fan of country music, doesn’t seem to want to deliver a very rich or detailed narrative with more than a perfunctory examination of inner demons causing turmoil with exterior stimuli.
The film is aided immensely by Bridges performance. Without him in the lead role, the film would have been twice as awful. Gyllenhaal is an awkward fit in the film. Her character isn’t terribly sympathetic and she doesn’t give it the kind of depth that sits well against someone as strong as Bridges.
The Wrestler, although situationally different, is thematically similar. Both center around washed-up performers finding love and redemption in the arms of a beautiful woman, but they differ in the intensity of the performances and the connectivity of the stories. Bridges and Rourke are on an even level performance wise, but Marisa Tomei annihilates Gyllenhaal in terms of profundity, charisma and accessibility. Likewise, the subplot of The Wrestler centering around his lost relationship with his daughter, is poorly handled in Crazy Heart, which only quickly and roughly deals with Bad Blake’s estranged son.
Had Cooper achieved what Darren Aronofsky did with The Wrestler without feeling like a bad carbon copy, we might have gotten a more successful feature. But, as it stands, Crazy Heart is a disjointed and unattached film that is barely kept afloat by Bridges’ talent.
-Wesley Lovell (March 15, 2010)