December 25, 2009 -- “Crazy Heart” is a well-written, well-acted romantic drama with some nice country-western music by T-Bone Burnett, Stephen Bruton and others thrown in for good measure. Jeff Bridges is having quite a year with another great performance in this film following his memorable stint in “The Men Who Stare at Goats.”
Bridges stars as washed up country star Bad Blake, who makes a marginal living singing at saloons and bowling alleys in the south and southwest. After three bad marriages, the chain-smoking alcoholic travels solo and plays with pick-up bands. One day he meets pretty Jean Craddock (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal of “The Dark Knight”) and falls in love with her. Jean knows what she is getting into with Bad. He is a train wreck waiting to happen. He falls asleep while driving to see her and rolls his old SUV, breaking his ankle. Jean takes care of him. Since he isn't touring and he has a standing offer from country star Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell of “In Bruges”) to write songs for big money, he writes some songs while recovering from his injuries.
Bad's love for Jean is almost enough to make Bad go straight, but not quite. He does try to be a better man, calling his long lost son, but it may be a case of too little too late. When he says this to his old friend, Wayne (Robert Duvall of “Secondhand Lions”), Wayne tells him he is right and his son is wrong for refusing to talk to him. Wayne said he was wrong for failing to connect with his son for 24 years, but he is right for trying to now. Bad's life has hit bottom. A doctor tells him his body can't take any more abuse. He needs to quit drinking and smoking and lose 25 pounds. In a final bout of alcoholism, he screws up his relationship with Jean. He finally realizes he must sober up.
Although there is some redemption for Bad, he never really escapes the mistakes he has made in his past. He does the best he can, staying sober one day at a time and trying not to repeat his past mistakes. Come to think of it, that is the best any of us can do. The music in the film is very nice and much of it is sung by Bridges, Farrell (I know, an Irishman singing country western songs) and Duvall. They all do a very nice job with their vocals. It isn't a musical, exactly, but there is a great deal of music in it, and it is good music, way better than those screechy, overwrought repetitive songs in “Once.” Duvall's appearance in this film reminds me that he once starred in another movie much like this one, “Tender Mercies.” In that film Duvall played a character who is very similar to the one Jeff Bridges plays in this film.
This movie is all about Bad's love-hate relationship with the music business. It gives us a look into the life of a traveling musician who is near the bottom. Cheap motel rooms, people who recognize you and are surprised you are still alive, and still playing in such backwater places. It has to do with recording contracts, the sale of music and what friends do for each other to keep on going. In short, it is a great little film. This film rates an A.
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