Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Crazy Heart

As a movie goer, it is an extreme pleasure to witness a character that I can believe in. Someone with whom I can identify with while sharing in their experiences, both good and bad. Jeff Bridges is able to do so in Crazy Heart with his seemingly effortless portrayal of Bad Blake, an aging country music star who has long since seen his glory days pass him by. Instead of playing for thousands, he instead entertains his faithful followers by performing in bowling alleys and shabby piano bars.

Blake is an alcoholic and smokes too much. He tours around in an outdated Chevy Suburban and has been married five different times. He is every single country music cliche rolled into one, and yet Blake makes it seem that he is the source of those cliches. Bridges portrayal of Bad Blake makes us believe that these events actually happened to him. He can only sit idly by as Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), the young kid who once learned and toured with him is now making it big and when he does try to secure the love of Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal), his alcoholism drives a wedge between to two that neither party can overcome. Jeff Bridges has taken every country song ever written and breathed live into them to create Bad Blake.

It is only fitting, then, that the soundtrack is comprised of Jeff Bridges singing original country songs written by T-Bone Burnett and the late Stephen Bruton. Bridges' voice, with it's gritty quality and subtle agony, is able to remind us of Blake's history every time he steps up to a microphone all while keeping the singer's pride intact as he performs at a bowling alley.

The preservation of pride in the midst of less-than-ideal situations is what keeps Blake from becoming too much of a cliche. Yes, bad things have happened to him, but he will never do the public a favor by letting them know that. In many ways, Bridges' performance in this movie closely resembles the performance of Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler a year ago. And it's true - I haven't cared about another character like I did for Randy "The Ram" Robinson until Bad Blake came along. Both men are desperately trying to salvage their lives after making mistakes time and time again and in doing so, we are reminded that it is the character of a person, not the previous mistakes made by that person, which is so endearing.

Crazy Heart is a film about a country music singer and it flows like a 2 hour country song. There are no gimmicks, no illusions. The performances from Farrell, Gyllenhaal, and Robert Duvall, who plays Bad's longtime friend, all help to detail who Bad Blake really is, despite his flaws. And Jeff Bridges, who has already established himself as a tremendously talented actor, simply added another notch to his belt without showing any effort exerted at all. If only all actors could be so lucky.