Crazy Heart Review17.12.09 # Review # 4 Comments
Our Crazy Heart review.
Director: Scott Cooper
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Duvall
Release Date: Out Now
Apparently, divorce is good for artistic inspiration.
When director Scott Cooper tried to option Merle Haggard’s life story, the rights were so entangled in legal red tape from all of his ex-wives that he turned instead to a 1989 novel with themes that mirrored Haggard’s life. The result is Crazy Heart, a solid, if somewhat conventional, movie that honors the art and trials of such country music legends as Haggard, Cash, and Kristofferson.
Jeff Bridges plays Bad Blake, a belt-unbuckling, whiskey-guzzling musician with only ten dollars in his back pocket and enough gas in his old truck to reach his next gig. Once the king of country music, now he begs for scraps from his old protege Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), who plays to sold-out stadiums while Blake plays the dingy corners of bowling alleys. One night, Blake hesitantly accepts an interview request and spends two smokey, booze-infused motel nights telling his story to Ann (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Their mutual stories of failed relationships bridges the age cap and the two fall in love.
If the story sounds like it’s been told too many times before, well … don’t get your hopes up. What follows is a standard redemption story with a great soundtrack. But Bridges, Gyllenhaal, and Robert Duvall make this film worth full ticket price. All three actors turn in beautiful, sincere performances. The story depends on the budding relationship between Bad and Ann, a potentially trite dynamic. But their scenes are the strongest and the film’s greatest achievement is twisting these tired plot points into moving drama.
Jeff Bridges and Colin Farrell trained heavily for their singing scenes, and it pays off in the finished product. Coupled with fantastic lyrics, their musical performances enhance the story rather than detract from the realism. Each seems to embody their character’s music, Bridges channeling the woes of Bad’s weary lyrics and Farrell charming his way through Tommy Sweet’s crowd pleasing tunes.
A movie about country music legends will live or die by its soundtrack, and luckily Crazy Heart boasts T-Bone Burnett (the musical guru behind O Brother Where Art Thou? and Walk the Line) as a producer. While most producers would use Taylor Swift for a main theme, Burnett chose the “The Weary Kind” from the lesser known Ryan Bingham. And since it’s impossible to walk out of the theater without singing the theme to yourself, hopefully this soundtrack will help launch Bingham to the top of the Grammy Awards where Kanye West can interrupt his much deserved acceptance speech.
Burnett’s decision to use a quality song over an emotionally invalid chart-topper speaks to the film’s strengths. Crazy Heart won’t win any awards for its cinematography or editing. If you’re bothered by static two-shots and overused cross dissolves you might as well stay at home and rent Tender Mercies. But in a winter movie season where studios are trading crocodile tears for Oscar nominations, it’s recharging to watch a simple movie with a real complicated heart.
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Our Grade: B
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