Writer/director Scott Cooper’s Crazy Heart is the country music version of The Wrestler. A has-been loner struggles to regain career, love and self-respect. While alcohol runs his life, singing legend Bad Blake’s life consists of a downward spiral of one-night stands of both varieties. Bowling alleys, bars and baby-boomer groupies.
After four previous nominations, Jeff Bridges might pull off the Best Actor Oscar that eluded Mickey Rourke last year. He was robbed, of course. Bridges’ gravely voice and roadmap face are tailor-made for his role. He oozes authenticity from start to finish or perhaps it’s just sweat. If it’s not the Academy Award makeup, then Jeff should take the cure immediately.
The plot is pedestrian and predictable which suits the country/romantic-drama genre perfectly. It’s melody drama rather than melodrama.
The rest of the cast make the best of their roles. Maggie Gyllenhaal, of Dark Knight fame, gives a suitably sweet and mercifully understated performance as his love interest Jean Craddock. Predictably Jack Nation, as her young son Buddy, steals most of his scenes. Robert Duvall does a solid but less than memorable job as Bad’s mate.
Apart from the battle with the booze and the romantic tension, the real drama centres on his rivalry with former protégé Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell) who basks in the top-billing that was once Blake’s preserve.
Hard to judge if the songs are as good as the script trumpets, but that's for country fans to decide. Singer/songwriter Ryan Bingham brings a genuine note to his brief appearance with Weary Kind. Bridges and Farrell sing their numbers. a creditable job for Colin whose IMDb bio claims he is tone deaf. Perhaps that helps.
Clichés, platitudes and aphorisms are the grits of the lyrics. The movie’s tag ‘The harder the life, the sweeter the song’ sums it up. Fortunately, though he’s a slow learner, Bad knows when to fold ‘em and doesn’t dwell too much on his mistakes. He’d have to do nothing else.
Crazy Heart is an enjoyable, sentimental journey. We know from the start that good will triumph over Bad. They only die in the songs.