Now Showing at: The Esquire and Mariemont Theatres, the AMC Newport, Showcase Milford, Rave West Chester, and Regal Deerfield
Review by: Larry Thomas
You’ve all been to movies in which the parts are better than the whole. For example, you’d likely go see Avatar for the 3-D, not the script.
Crazy Heart is just such a film. Jeff Bridges plays Bad Blake, a down on his luck country music star. He’s a chain-smoking, serial-drinking vagabond whose once blazing career has fizzled to the point that he’s now playing in bowling alleys. The confusion and pain over his life choices lines his face like forty miles of bad road. And, naturally, he’s absolutely terrible at relationships. Enter Jean Craddock, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal. She’s a journalist eager for an interview, which you know will lead to a romance that will be upset by Bad’s bad behavior. There’s nothing special in this story that you haven’t seen in other films. There’s nothing special about the style, dialogue, situations or characters. And even two small supporting roles from Robert Duvall and Colin Farrell are nothing special. A co-worker described it as “The Wrestler with country music.”
Crazy Heart is made special by the lead performances, both of which are Oscar-nominated, and rightly so. Jeff Bridges has always been one of America’s best actors. He was Oscar nominated as Best Supporting Actor for his first major film, Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show. He followed that role with superior work for directors like John Huston, Michael Cimino, and Francis Ford Coppola. He even did a film version of Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh for director John Frankenheimer, with a cast that included Lee Marvin, Fredric March, and Robert Ryan. He has a loyal cult following for his role as “Dude” in the Coen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski. Bridges has been Oscar nominated five times, although not for one of his best roles, as one of The Fabulous Baker Boys in 1989. Unless something unexpected happens, he should walk to the podium on March 7th and claim his golden statue. He puts his heart and soul into making Bad Blake come alive and succeeds admirably.
Maggie Gyllenhaal, a comparative newcomer in movie years, always lights up the screen, regardless of the role, or the film. With work as varied as The Dark Knight, Stranger Than Fiction, Donnie Darko, and John Waters’ Cecil B. Demented, she manages to capture your attention one hundred percent. Crazy Heart is her first Oscar nomination, although not likely to be her last.
The third Oscar nomination for Crazy Heart is for the original song The Weary Kind, written by Ryan Bingham and T-Bone Burnett, and yes, Bridges does his own singing.
It’s not likely to be the kind of film to inspire multiple viewings, but is well worth seeing in order to savor the talent of Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhall. Their characters and relationship, and even the film itself, can best be defined by the classic lyric “you can’t always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need.”
The R-rated Crazy Heart is now showing at the Esquire and Mariemont Theatres, the AMC Newport, Showcase Milford, Rave West Chester, and Regal Deerfield.