Sunday, 22 August 2010

“Crazy Heart”. A Review Of The 2009 Film Now Released On DVD and BLU RAY In 2010.

"…The Good Ones Feel Like They’ve Always Been There…"

As every film lover knows, Jeff Bridges has been putting in great performances for years - but “Crazy Heart” is different.
Quietly magnificent throughout the entire movie, he owns the Oscar on this one.

“Bad Blake” is a 57-year old country singer, drunk most of the time and shuffling with a cigarette in his gob towards another small time venue he doesn’t care about. As he empties a plastic carton of piss into the parking lot of a bowling alley (having been on the road for hours), he can think about only one thing – not family, not music, not love – but how can he get a bottle of McClure’s Whiskey into his liver with only $10 left in his jeans?

Without any new material to make money from, wifeless for the 4th time and with deteriorating health, “Bad” is still a legend among his fans and when he’s on stage, him and his beloved songs like “I Don’t Know” can still cut it. But the younger bucks have replaced him – especially his despised protégé Tommy Sweet (a brilliantly cast Colin Farrell) who now has 3 huge articulated trucks to haul his equipment from one arena to the next and not a beat-up convertible called ‘Bessie’.

Then “Bad” gets a lucky break. He is interviewed by a local Santa Fe journalist Jean Craddock, a divorced Mum in her Thirties with a bubbly 4-year old son Buddy whom she protects from – you guessed it - ‘bad’ men. Yet despite all her rules, both Jean and Buddy fall for the charms of the big kid with the guitar and the ten-gallon hat. And on the story goes, heartbreak to joy, joy to heartbreak and back again…

The support cast are convincingly enamored small town folks - Tom Bower as the store manager and Rick Dial as the local band's piano player. Colin Farrell sings amazingly well too and is a perfect foil for the aging singer (he's also superb in "Ondine"). Significant others shimmy around Bad's constant verbal abuse too - Paul Herman as his long-suffering manager Jack Greene and Robert Duvall as the bar-owner who never seems to give up on "Bad" and is maybe his only real friend (Duvall is still such a great actor at 79).

Although this kind of movie harks back to Duvall’s own “Tender Mercies”, it feels a lot richer in its details. There’s a particularly tough scene where Bad decides to finally call his son of 28. Bad hasn’t seen him since he was 4 years of age – never helped him, never been there for him. There are very few words in the scene, but there’s a lot of pain. The grown-up son is not surprisingly unforgiving - especially with his Mom having passed away two years earlier. With the receiver to his ear, there is a look on Bridge’s face that is pure destruction – a horrible realization that he has caused agony with his cavalier stay-away life and won’t easily get forgiveness for it. In the hands of another actor, there might have been histrionic tears when the call abruptly finishes – but Bridges just does what an alcoholic would do, not mend his ways, but look cravenly at the kitchen for a bottle to get lost in. And on it goes until he finally does something really selfish and stupid in a shopping mall with a boy who now looks at him with affection. It’s brilliantly relaised stuff, it really is.

Niggles – his recovery is too swift and too painless – alcohol abuse over that length of time is never that easy to shake off, and even though she’s a magnificent actress, there’s a nagging disbelief in the relationship between her character and his – would she really fall for such a car-crash as “Bad Blake”. But these are minor points.

“Crazy Heart” (based on the novel by Thomas Cobb) isn’t quiet a masterpiece, but it's damn close. And while the other actors, the T-Bone Burnette music and Scott Cooper’s superb direction all add so much to the film - ultimately it belongs to its leading man. Bridges imbibes it with believability and a soul few actors could even get near.

As Jean asks what is it that makes a great song – Bad answers with the title of this review – “The good ones feel like they’ve always been there…” You may feel the same about “Crazy Heart”.

Put it high on your rental/to buy list.

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