Crazy Heart Tells It Like It Is
- Richard Abanes Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2010 23 Apr
DVD Release Date: April 20, 2010
Theatrical Release Date: December 16, 2009 (limited)
Rating: R (for language and brief sexuality)
Run Time: 111 min.
Director: Scott Cooper
Actors: Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Duvall, Colin Farrell
It's an old tale told a thousand times—the washed up, boozed up, creatively dried up, and financially busted aging country-western singer, who's making his rounds at dive bars and music dumps, hoping for one more chance at life and love. That's Crazy Heart in a nutshell. And that's where this review would end if it were not for a stellar performance by Jeff Bridges, who won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Bad Blake in this late-2009 film, directed by Scott Cooper (nominated in 2009 for the Most Promising Director Award by the Chicago Film Critics Association).
Bridges (Iron Man, Seabiscuit, K-Pax), not only holds Crazy Heart together, but makes its otherwise lackluster storyline interesting enough to keep anyone involved. His acting choices—from body language, to vocal inflections, to micro-facial expressions—are captivating. And to make his performance even more riveting, Bridges actually did his own singing and guitar picking on a level equal to that of any real country-western star. If Bridges ever wanted a country music career, he'd have no problem fashioning one for himself as a grizzled crooner (part Charlie Daniels, part Johnny Cash, part Alan Jackson, part Kris Kristofferson). You couldn't ask for more from any actor.
We meet Bad as he's pulling up to the venue for his latest gig—a bowling alley, on a deserted highway, in the middle of nowhere, near Pueblo, Colorado. It's a far cry from the places he used to play. Unfortunately, it's never revealed exactly how (or why) Bad ended up losing everything, which would have been a nice addition to the plot. All we're told is that he's been married multiple times, has a drinking problem, and has lost his creative edge. He's a mess; such a mess that he can barely get through his bowling alley performances without vomiting backstage due to his alcoholism.
Bad is an offensive character, to be sure—grumpy, foul-mouthed, bitter. But we can't help feeling sorry for him because his greatness still shines through whenever he plays. We also see a sensitive side beneath his gruffness that's manifested through his songs (written specifically for the film). They offer poignant lyrics on heart issues like loss, loneliness, love, and longing. These are the real themes of Crazy Heart, which are brought to light through a romance between Bad and a much younger single-mother named Jean Craddock—a nobody-journalist played effortlessly by Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Dark Knight, Donnie Darko). Bad opens up; starts writing music again; allows himself to feel; lets himself love. With Jean and her 4-year-old boy, he can once more show a side that's been hidden for many years. And we, as observers, are forced to concede the validity of that old saying, "You can't judge a book by its cover."
But rather than leave the movie totally in the realm of predictable, there are a few plot twists that ultimately leave us pondering several truths many of us have had to face at one time, are facing now, or might face in the future: 1) sometimes there's no escaping the results of our mistakes; 2) sometimes we must reach the bottom before looking up; 3) sometimes "I'm sorry" is too little too late. These are heavy issues worthy of not only private discussion and personal meditation, but also, small group Bible studies.
Crazy Heart, although slow as a film, certainly raises important matters of the heart, soul, and mind.
(NOTE: Robert Duvall appears with Bridges for a brief scene late in the film. Duvall's acting is pure gold. And the dialogue between the two veteran actors is perfection.)
- Language/Profanity: Lord's name taken in vain several times; various forms of the "f" word used liberally; other foul language such as "sh-t" and "bast--d" sprinkled throughout the script.
- Smoking/Drinking/Drugs: Smoking and drinking are shown, but not in a positive way. Their destructive nature is driven home repeatedly. Jean not only warns Bad about the dangers of drinking, but asks him to not drink in front of her child; and Bad's doctor tells him he must stop drinking/smoking.
- Sex/Nudity: After Bad's first concert, a woman propositions Bad for a one night stand. She gives him her card and it is later implied that he called her. There are two sex scenes involving the unmarried Bad and Jean. The first shows Jean lying on top of Bad and kissing him (fully clothed)—the screen fades to black. We then see them waking up in bed together the next morning. The second is slightly more graphic, beginning with Bad fondling Jean underneath her dress. They move to the bed and begin kissing, while Bad lifts up her dress to reveal Jean's underwear and partially see-thru bra (partial nudity). He begins placing his hand inside her underwear and the scene goes black.
- Violence: None.