A Review: “Crazy Heart” – 2009 Dir. Scott Cooper, With Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Duvall and Colin Farrell.

And so it finally happened, I got to see the film I was most excited about this Oscar season:  “Crazy Heart” in a double feature with “A Single Man”.  I have been a fan of Jeff Bridges for many, many years and his performances over the decades have been some of the strongest, and deepest performances I have ever seen.  Bridges has always carefully picked roles, roles that were tough, roles that many actors wouldn’t be able to pull off with as much sincerity as he can.  Jeff Bridges remains the most underrated actor of his generation.  I was bursting excitement waiting to see Bridges take us to hell and back (and maybe back to hell) in his embodiment of washed up country star, Bad Blake, who at this point in time has reverted to playing bowling alleys and local bars due to his self destructive nature and his vice of alcohol.  The film has been called this years “The Wrestler”.  It’s not.

“The Wrestler” was a great film.  “Crazy Heart” isn’t.

How could a film starring Jeff Bridges in a Kris Kristopherson-esq country singer, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Duvall (who also produced the film), and Colin Farrell?  Oh and – scored/produced/and lyrics and music written by legend T-Bone Burnett?  The answer is simple – the script.  The faults of the script were generic, they were cliché, they weren’t even faults actually.  I just expected more, I expected to see a darker side, a more tortured side of the human soul.  These elements appear in the film but they are a little too sugar-coated for me.  It’s still a good film that everyone should see, especially if you’re a fan of Country Music (which I’m not) or of any of the actors that are on board.

It was exciting to know that Robert Duvall was in this film since about twenty-five years earlier he made “Tender Mercies“, a very parallel story about

Jeff Bridges and Robert Duvall in "Crazy Heart".

another down and out country singer who is an alcoholic by the name of Mac Sledge.  It’s what Duvall won his Best Actor Oscar for, and “Crazy Heart” is what Bridges will more than likely win his long over due Best Actor Oscar for as well.

The film is well paced and interesting, it doesn’t have many moments where it drags on.  I just watched Bridges in amazement from scene to scene as he drank, chain smoked cigarettes and sang.  Seeing how Bad Blake deals with life’s problems by ignoring them when he’s not forced to deal with them.  Bad Blake is one of Bridges’ best characters, and it’s painful to watch Blake go through his trials and his new found love with a small time reporter Jane (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and her young son Buddy.  We see Blake at his best with her, but his worst still prevails.  The constant pain Blake deals with – is what we deal with.

The best scenes in the film are the ones that are shared by Bad Blake and Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell).  Sweet was a member of Blake’s band before he went out on his own and started a solo career.  We’re told that Sweet is very, very successful with his solo career and a start of a film career.  Blake is bitter and jealous because if it weren’t for him, there wouldn’t be a Tommy Sweet.  He’s vindictive when speaking of Sweet, but when we first meet Sweet he’s different then what we’re expecting.  He’s very humbled, very gracious, and very grateful to Blake for everything that he’s done for him.  Aside from Bridges’ performance, the only other thing in the film that worked, that really worked for me was Farrell as Tommy Sweet.

I’m not sure why Farrell isn’t being advertised or credited in the trailers of even on the films official website.  I didn’t see his name in the ending credits for acting either.  Perhaps Farrell remains uncredited and is left that way to be a surprise to the audience, and what an amazingly great surprise.  Farrell’s performance as Tommy Sweet is so genuine he’s almost as good, if not slightly better than Bridges.  The absolute best scene in the film is Bad Blake reluctantly opening for Tommy Sweet in a big outdoor arena in Phoenix, we see him performing his biggest hit, “Fallin’ & Flyin'”.  A

Colin Farrell as Tommy Sweet, Bad Blake's legacy.

song that he is tired off, but can’t turn his back on it because it’s been “too good to him”.  While he’s performing his biggest hit, Sweet sneaks out on stage and the crowd goes crazy.  Sweet slides in and begins a duet with Blake.  Blake absolutely resents the fact that Sweet is once again stealing his thunder, but Blake accepts it and allows Sweet to share the limelight.  Sweet is showing his graciousness and showing the audience that Blake is his mentor, his hero.

Bottom line Bridges and Farrell’s performance are far better than the flawed film.  Jeff Bridges gives us just another taste of his greatness, shows us another example of why he’s such a great actor, why he’s been nominated for an Academy Award four times over his entire acting career, two for Supporting Actor and two for Best Actor and he’s on pace to win this years (although my personal pick is in my previous review).  And sometimes there’s a man, and he’s the man for his life and time.  That man is Jeff Bridges.

Rating: 7/10

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Author: Frank Mengarelli

Everybody relax, Frank's here. After going to film school at Columbia College Chicago, Frank decided to underachieve with his vast knowledge of film into a career in civil service. Frank had a brief stint as a film blogger, and then he met the heterosexual love of his life, Nick Clement. The two instantly bonded over their love from everything to Terence Malick to THE EXPENDABLES films. Some of Frank's favorite filmmakers are Terence Malick, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Sylvester Stallone, Oliver Stone and Spike Lee. Some of his favorite films are THE TREE OF LIFE, STAR WARS (all of them), BAD LIEUTENANT, THE THING and ALL THAT JAZZ. Frank spends his free time with his dog Roger, collecting any Star Wars collectible he can find and trying to finish his pretentious, first person narrative novel(la), LARGE MEN IN SMALL CARS..

2 thoughts on “A Review: “Crazy Heart” – 2009 Dir. Scott Cooper, With Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Duvall and Colin Farrell.”

  1. I decided that Colin Farrell probably decided that it was best for him not to be advertised. He probably looks up to Bridges and realizes that it is his show and he doesn’t want to take any of the spotlight away from him. That’s just my theory.

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