“Crazy Heart” – 2009 – Expanded Review

“I wanna talk about how bad you make this room look. I never knew what a dump it was until you came in here.”

I originally saw this film in a double feature along with “A Single Man”. At that point, I was excited to see this film, and not so much “A Single Man”. “A Single Man” blew me away, and I think that took from the fact that “Crazy Heart” is truly a remarkable film. As I said in my earlier post – that I was looking for something else with “Crazy Heart”. I wanted to feel bad about the film, and for myself. I was being very selfish with my review, and what I took away from the film. I’m going to get off my soap box now and give the film a review from me it truly deserved in the first place.

Jean and Bad Blake.

By now everyone knows that Jeff Bridges won Best Actor for this film. Did he deserve it? Yes. Even though Colin Firth should have won for “A Single Man”, Bridges award was well deserved and well received. The story of “Crazy Heart” revolves around Bad Blake, a washed up country singer. He goes from small town to small town playing at bowling alleys and lounges. Even though Blake is going through the motions at these venues – Blake is most animated and alive while he performs his music. Two subplots split and take us on a journey with Blake. The first is his meeting a reporter played by Maggie Gyllenhaal and a love story begins to blossom from them. The second: Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell). Tommy Sweet is a rising star in the world of country music but he started as a member of Blake’s back-up band. Blake is resentful and bitter whenever he talks about Sweet, or whenever Sweet is mentioned.

The love story that grows between Jean (Gyllenhaal) and Bad is very sweet and heartfelt to watch. It’s very joyous to watch Blake play with Jean’s son. The way Blake cooks for the little boy, or the way he teaches him how to play paper football is so enjoyable to watch. You know that Bad has fallen in love with both Jean and her son. It’s also painful to watch at times because you know, you just know that Blake’s drinking problem is taking a toll on their relationship and will eventually poison it. Due to Blake’s alcoholism, something happens that Jean cannot ever forgive him for – or forget. Blake sobers up and goes to see Jean, to tell her that he’s different. That small scene is one of the many reasons why Jeff Bridges was not only nominated, but won the Best Actor Oscar, and the sole reason Gyllenhaal was nominated. It’s a heartbreaking scene that sinks right to your soul.

As for the Tommy Sweet story arc, we’re told very little about him, but every time he’s mentioned Blake coils up like a snake and get tremendously defensive. Blake is jaded that Sweet won’t do another duet album with him. Bottom line is Blake needs the money. Blake is offered to open for Sweet at his next concert and Blake reluctantly accepts because he is desperate for money. Everything is going wrong for Blake, his record label is pulling his last album from store shelves and he’s not allowed to have a tab at any of his engagements. When he shows up to open for Sweet, Blake is eating at a steakhouse and Sweet walks in. Sweet is very cautious as if he’s walking on thin ice. He sits down at Blake’s table and they begin to have a sidestepping exchange of dialogue.

Colin Farrell is absolutely perfect as Tommy Sweet. His southern accent is brooding and real. Farrell should have been nominated for his performance as Sweet, and almost should have rivaled Christoph Waltz for Best Supporting Actor. Sweet is everything opposite of what we expect him to be. He’s very gracious and humbled in Blake’s

Tommy Sweet and Bad Blake performing "Fallin' & Flyin'".

presence. It’s as if Sweet is going to carry Blake’s torch and protect his legacy. The best scene of the film is where Blake and Sweet perform together on stage. It’s a great song, “Fallin’ & Flyin'” and they are almost singing the song to each other. “I never meant to hurt no one/I just had to have my way/If there’s such a thing as too much fun/This must be the price you pay.” Farrell’s voice as he sings is jaw dropping. He’s absolutely perfect for the role and what it requires. His voice can almost be equated to the likes of Tim McGraw.

The film’s first time writer/director Scott Cooper does an interesting job directing the film. He uses many long takes, much like John Ford did. Robert Duvall was Cooper’s mentor on the film, and was on the set everyday (although he’s only in three scenes). Cooper’s screenplay should have been recognized, and since there were ten Best Picture Nominees, “Crazy Heart” should have gotten a nomination. I didn’t, but “The Blindside” did. That’s not fair and I don’t like it.

Jeff Bridges does an unbelievable job carrying this film on his shoulders. I feel that most of the films he has been in wouldn’t have been as good if Bridges wasn’t in the film (“The Big Lebowski”, “Iron Man”, and “The Door in the Floor”). Bridges was the most underrated and underappreciated actor of his generation, but not anymore. I was so happy to see him finally get his long overdue Oscar, and he gave such a great speech. Thank you Mr. Bridges, you’ve inspired me more then you’ll ever know.

The last thing I would like to talk about is the original music for the film. I’ve never been much of a fan of country music, aside from Cash, Nelson, Jennings and those guys, but the music that Bridges sings in the film is reminiscent like that of Leonard Cohen, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristopherson. The songs in the film by Stephen Brutton and

Bridges and Burnett perfoming songs from the film.

T-Bone Burnett are fantastic. “Hold on You” plays during the opening and Bridges later perform part of later in the film and the song is absolutely amazing. It’s the best song in the film. The lyrics are amazing to these original songs, but the way Bridges conveys – performs the music is outstanding. The fact that Bridges is an accomplished musician in his personal life added to the realism and authenticity of his performance. “The Weary Kind” by Ryan Bingham and T-Bone Burnett is an amazingly great song. It’s an unbelievably sad song. It was so well deserving of Best Original Song at the Oscars, but if I had to choose, “Hold on You” would have won.

I’ve watched this film twice since I saw it in theaters and it has sunk in. It’s a much better film then I told you it was months ago. It is a very tight film, and doesn’t drag or bore you. Bridges, Farrell, Duvall and Gyllenhaal captivate you, and command your attention in every scene.

What I take away from “Crazy Heart” is that it’s never too late to change yourself; to become a better person. No matter how hard of life you’ve lived, and how many mistakes you’ve made – you can still find redemption, there is still hope. Fail, fail again, fail better. The film is heartfelt and sincere. “Crazy Heart” will stand the test of time, and I think it has more staying power then a lot of films that came out this year. As more generations explore Bridges, and see him as The Dude, they will ultimately discover his Oscar winning portrayal where he bears his soul and shows us his weak side. We all have a little Bad Blake inside of us. Be kinder then necessary, because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.

All the fire that I walk through/Only tryin' to get a hold on you.

Review: 9/10

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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..

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