Jeff Bridges owns Crazy
Heart, and it's right that he should. This hugely charismatic
actor has spent decades delivering riveting, often underrated work -
from the teenage Duane Jackson in The
Last Picture Show
and the big-time sucker Terry Brogan in Against All Odds, to
the idealistic automobile manufacturer in Tucker:
The Man and His Dream
and the indelible personification of the entire last half-century of
Californian society and culture in The
Bridges is an intuitive, committed actor whose remarkable range and
enormous appeal have too often been taken for granted. Films like
The Door in the Floor and Fearless, while mostly overlooked
upon their initial release, demand both critical and popular reappraisal;
both are outstanding films that owe a large part of their respective
success to dynamic performances by Bridges.
Finally, almost forty years
after receiving his first nomination for 1971's The Last Picture
Show, Bridges has his Oscar. But this is no consolation award
of the Scent
of a Woman
variety. Bridges is outstanding in Crazy Heart, and the
film is nowhere near half bad, either.
Bridges plays Bad Blake, a
57-year-old country music singer-songwriter. Blake tours desolate
sections of the southwest, playing bowling alleys and saloons.
Dissatisfied with the direction his life has taken, Blake spends most
days wafting in and out of a drunken haze, barely appreciative of the
many committed fans who consider him a legend. In Santa Fe, Blake
agrees to an interview with a local newspaper reporter named Jean (Maggie
Gyllenhaal). Jean is a lost soul, in a way, too, and she and Blake
connect almost immediately. While struggling to build a relationship
with Jean from the road, Blake contends with the success of his protégée
Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), who is now a country superstar playing
arenas and traveling with a fleet of tour buses. Sweet wants to
help Blake through this low point in his career, but Blake is resistant
to such "charity." Eventually, Blake agrees to write songs
for Sweet - a sure source of income. Blake's relationship
with Jean develops happily, but his drinking becomes an issue - particularly
as it concerns his growing presence around her four-year-old son, Buddy.
Although Blake confronts his alcoholism, not everything turns out as
he had hoped.
Bridges' Bad Blake is a wonderful
character, simultaneously flawed, self-hating, and likable. He
has a good heart, but is afraid to use it. We know from the outset,
even before we hear of Blake's background, that he has seen his share
of heartache and personal disaster. Like a lot of great country
songs, the script follows Blake in an arc that extends from the gutter
to paradise, and back again (well, not quite). Bridges carries
the entire film, appearing in every scene, dragging his raggedy bloated
carcass around like dead weight. Bridges has always been a physical
actor, and his body is on display here in a way that illustrates the
sense of careless disregard Blake has for his own well-being.
He slouches around, sweaty and unkempt in stained clothing, with his
gut hanging out, unashamed, exhausted, and often drunk.
Although the story is not particularly
fresh, there is something about the film that is. First-time writer-director
Scott Cooper has crafted a tight script that maintains a strict focus
on Blake, which in turn allows Bridges to hone a full, rounded performance.
Building from that script and working with cinematographer Barry Markowitz,
Cooper has shot a visually-cohesive picture that utilizes minimal, elegant
camera setups and eschews unnecessary cutting. The visuals constantly
remind us that this movie is purely about character and setting.
It's an effective, focused approach that gives the actors a lot of
freedom while avoiding narrative and visual distraction. Despite
a handful of conceptual clichés, Crazy Heart is a well-crafted,
immensely enjoyable film.
The Video and Audio
As usual, Fox has sent only a pre-release screener for review, and rather
late at that. The widescreen image is rendered faithfully and
the surround soundtrack is agreeable, but until a final retail disc
is available, I can't provide an accurate assessment of the technical
The screener contains a handful of Deleted Scenes and the
feature's Theatrical Trailer. A commentary from Cooper
and Bridges would have been lovely. Sadly, there's little of
As a film, Crazy Heart is wholly admirable, and can be recommended
for a host of reasons, the best of which is Jeff Bridges' memorable
embodiment of Bad Blake. However, as a disc, this release is sadly
lacking. This important film deserves substantial bonus content,
and it's just not here. Fox has a habit of behaving schizophrenically
with regard to its home video output, and this DVD represents a lack
of thought and planning. The film is strong enough, however, that
I can still say it's Recommended.
Casey Burchby lives in Northern California: Twitter, Tumblr.