“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

“Crazy Heart”

Colin Farrell displaying his range as a tragic yet comedic actor. Photo taken by Jeff Bridges. From: JeffBridges.com

I have been doing A LOT of thinking about “Crazy Heart” lately. I was so filled with joy watching Jeff Bridges accept his Best Actor Oscar (even though it should have gone to Colin Firth for “A Single Man”). But I suppose if you have to lose to someone, it might as well be Jeff Bridges! When I saw “Crazy Heart” I was disappointed. I was looking for something a different. I think it had a lot to do with the frame of mind I was in during that period. I was in a very deep rut in my life when I saw “Crazy Heart”, and that was tremendously unfair to the film. I was hoping the film was going to make me feel worse, help feed the self loathing inside of me. It didn’t, and I think that’s why I was rough on certain elements of the film. I have watched it twice recently since I first saw it in theaters in December and I have a lot more respect for the film. I am planning on revisiting my review of “Crazy Heart” and am going to write an “expanded” review of it.

Thanks for reading, and please – check back soon.

Top Ten Supporting Performances of the Decade – #8 Ralph Fiennes “In Bruges”.

“An Uzi? I’m not from South Central Los Angeles. I didn’t come here to shoot twenty black ten year olds in a drive-by. I want a normal gun for a normal person.”

“In Bruges” is a highly underrated film with great cast and story; but the real treat in the film is Ralph Fiennes who plays Harry Walters, the boss of the two hitmen (Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson) who are shacked up in Bruges under Walters’ direct orders. Fiennes has limited screen time and is mainly the focus of the prestige of the film. His performance can be equated much to the liking of William Hurt’s brilliant film stealing performance in “A History of Violence”. Fiennes shows up in Bruges in full form towards the end of the film to settle unfinished business. Fiennes is absolutely perfect in the film. He is so wickedly funny as he discusses situations that lay in the film. It’s amazing how Fiennes doesn’t look menacing himself, but when he takes a role like this, he looks and sounds evil. He deliverers his lines of dialogue through his teeth, he snarls and hisses his lines.

The most fascinating part about his character is he is also much like Hans Landa of “Inglorious Basterds”; meaning he is this essentially evil character, but what centers him is a sense of duty and honor. Walters has his “principles” and he sticks to them, right up until the end. He is a family man, and even though we see him lash out at his wife (calling her an “inanimate fucking object”), we still get the feeling that he is essentially a good father and husband and doesn’t allow his fits of rage and anger to erupt while around them. Or maybe he does.

What helps excel Fiennes’ performance is the excellent, excellent, excellent script written by Martin McDonagh (who also directed). The dialogue is so witty, and so well paced. It is stylized without being a British Tarantino knock off, ala Guy Richie. The script is remarkable; the core of the film circles around a much unforgivable act. Think of the worst thing you could do to someone, and then multiply it by two. The deep subject matter is made very bearable and strangely enjoyable by the witty banter these characters spit at one another. Especially Fiennes.

Fiennes displays an excellent amount of range as an actor, from his role in “The Quiz Show” to “Schindler’s List” to “The English Patient” to “An End of the Affair” to “In Bruges” and his small role in “The Hurt Locker”. I’ve always found Fiennes a remarkable actor, who has started an acting tree with his brothers. It’s much like the Baldwin’s, where Alec is obviously the best one. Harry Walters keeps you engaged and entertained as he goes on a shooting rampage throughout Bruges. If you’re not interested in seeing this film, suck it up and see it, if only for Ralph Fiennes.

“In Bruges” 2008

“In Bruges” – 2008.  Dir.  Martin McDonagh.  With Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes.

“In Bruges” is an interesting film.  The set-up is two hitmen Ray and Kev (Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson) get sent to Bruges by their boss Harry Waters (Ralph Fiennes) after their last hit went terribly wrong.  They are told to sight see and wait for a call from their boss, and Gleeson couldn’t be happier wandering around the beautiful town that has so much history to it.  Farrell on the other hand can’t stand it, he hates being in Bruges, he hates everything about it.  The only thing he enjoys is going to the pub and getting “pissed”.  We slowly start to learn why Ray is wound extremely tight and is on edge.  The last hit they performed went so horribly wrong it leaves Ray in a permanent state of guilt and remorse.  Ray can’t even find absolution for what he has done, and he can’t even stand himself anymore.  He slowly starts to lose control until he falls in love with a beautiful woman, Chloe who robs tourists.

The film is remarkable in the sense that it masks it very, very heavy subject matter with witty and fresh dialogue that’s so funny it makes you laugh out loud.  It allows you to enjoy the character of Ray, even after you find out what he did.  You enjoy him for the outlandish things he says and does (including doing cocaine with a midget, while the midges discuss the inevitable war that is going to break out between blacks and whites).  Colin Farrell gives one of the best performances of his career, which did garnish him a Best Actor Musical/Comedy at the Golden Globes, and it’s one of the rare occasions that the award actually meant something.

The real treat of the film is Harry Waters.  Waters is the ruthless boss of Ray and Kev, who isn’t seen till the end of the film.  He’s a viciously wicked, scary and funny character.  Ralph Fiennes gives his finest role since that of Charles Van Doren in “The Quiz Show“.  Fiennes’ performance was snubbed by all awards which to me is absolutely shocking.  I don’t mean to be short on Fiennes, but I’ll be posting something specifically about his performance very soon.

Review: 9/10.