Sunday 19 May 2019

Movie Review: Crazy Heart (2009)

A drama and romance set in the country music world, Crazy Heart is a sincere story about second chances at love and life.

Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) is a 57 year old washed up and broke alcoholic country music singer reduced to touring on his own in his beat-up truck and playing at bowling alleys. At a bar gig in Santa Fe he meets Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a single mom to four year old Buddy. She is an aspiring music reporter and interviews Bad before and after his show. A cautious romance develops between them.

The next stop is Phoenix, where Bad accepts the humiliation of opening for country music star Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), who was mentored by Bad early in his career. Despite some tension between the two men Tommy encourages Bad to get back to writing as a way to earn royalties. After a mishap on the road the relationship between Bad and Jean deepens, but his excessive drinking will cause a rift.

A film that drinks deeply from the sorrows and regrets of a derailed life, Crazy Heart is a human profile about still finding hope amidst the carnage. With a monumental Jeff Bridges performance, director and writer Scott Cooper, adapting the Thomas Cobb book, jumps into Blake's pick-up truck and crafts a tender story of broken dreams and an unlikely chance at new love.

At the film's outset Blake is reduced to the loneliness level of human existence. No backing band, a lost family, hardly any friends, and just a smattering of remaining fans, he is the living embodiment of a mostly forgotten has-been, spending his days in derelict motel rooms watching porn. Even drowning his miseries is a challenge, as he cannot afford to buy alcohol and is reduced to the charity of store owners to hand him a free bottle.

From this beginning Crazy Heart charts a course towards something resembling a revival. The intervention of others is crucial. Blake's manager insists he opens for Tommy, who in return demonstrates kindness to his mentor and hints at a potential path to recovery. In the meantime Blake forges an unexpected connection with Jean and her son Buddy, stirring within him a renewed yearning for a more complete life.

The film includes plenty of country music, with soundtrack contributions from T Bone Burnett, Stephen Bruton, and Ryan Bingham. Adding to the film's authenticity Bridges and Farrell perform their in-concert songs, and the music never gets in the way of the narrative. Robert Duvall has a small role as a bartender and longtime friend.

With an aesthetic dominated by the wide open skies of mostly rural America, Cooper and Bridges manage a remarkable feat: Bad Blake, despite all his faults, is a human being worth knowing and caring about. Beneath all the flabby grime is a sensitive songwriter and a man who can be rescued. All it takes is a  Crazy Heart to point the way.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

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