Crazy Heart didn’t receive a lot of fanfare and big, splashy promotions. In fact, I wasn’t sure what it was when I saw it on the list of movies at the Sanford cinemas. When I opened the link and read the synopsis, I did remember hearing about an upcoming movie reminiscent of an old favorite of mine – Tender Mercies – and that Robert Duvall, who starred in Tender Mercies in 1983, had a supporting role in it. I didn’t connect that Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal starred in it and that it had been out in limited release since mid December (even though I did notice it was nominated for several awards). It was definitely not on my radar – one I totally overlooked. After reading the description and the cast list, which also included Colin Farrell, I was more than curious about it. In fact, I looked up what movies were available for the weekend Friday evening after work and notice of this film made me decide to do something I rarely ever do – I decided to go see it on a Friday night and pay full price!
Not knowing what to expect because I hadn’t seen any trailers and the only thing I remember hearing about it was a comparison to Tender Mercies, I had several thoughts: It would either be a sad disappointment because of the big shoes it had to fill if, indeed, it was an attempt to remake one of my favorite movies – OR – it could be a raging success at that attempt, much like the amazing 1976 remake of A Star is Born (which was originally done in 1937 and redone in 1954 and again in 1976….and got better with each remake!!!). What I didn’t consider was that it might not be an attempt to remake Tender Mercies, at all. Yes, the story lines were very similar — aging, rough, down and out musician turns his life around because of the love of a younger woman with a child — but the similarities end there.
Jeff Bridges plays Bad Blake – a 57-year-old alcoholic who was once a big country music star and is now relegated to doing gigs in out-of-the-way bowling alleys and bars. What struck me about Bridges’ performance is how much he looked and sounded like a pot-bellied Kris Kristofferson! The hair, the unshaven look, the raspy voice, the mannerisms – classic Kristofferson (except Kris has never looked that bad with his shirt off!). The other thing that struck me was Bridges’ stage performances – he could have had a good career as a country music singer – not that his chosen career wasn’t the right choice. He really did a top-notch job performing the songs — and, no, he didn’t sound like Kris when he sang – the raspy voice didn’t show up in those performances.
Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Jean – an aspiring journalist who interviews Blake and falls in love with him. Jean is a young divorced mother of 4-year-old Buddy, played adorably by Jack Nation. The relationship is complicated – Jean is drawn to men who are totally wrong for her and her son. She doesn’t want Blake to drink in front of Buddy, knowing he is an alcoholic and can’t make it through the day without a bottle of booze. After an incident with Blake and Buddy, Jean pulls back from the relationship and Blake realizes he needs to sober up and turn his life around.
Another standout performance for me was Colin Farrell as Blake’s former protege’, Tommy Sweet. You don’t see much of Tommy, but there is a lot of reference to him. Blake mentored Tommy in the early days – Tommy was Blake’s opening act and Blake taught him everything he knows. After years of touring together, Tommy went off on a solo career and made it big – while Blake slide into obscurity. Farrell sings his own songs, as well, and does a good job! I liked his character and think the movie could have included more interaction between Blake and Tommy. I wouldn’t have minded the movie going longer to accomplish that.
Robert Duvall was one of the Producers and had a small supporting role as an old friend of Blake’s. I would have liked to have seen more of Duvall in the film, too, but realize it wasn’t one of the more prominent relationships.
This is a movie about complicated relationships and what living a hard life inside a bottle will do to a man’s ambitions. Bridges and Gyllenhaal are both nominated for Oscars for their roles in this film — I’ll venture to guess that Bridges will likely win and definitely deserves it! He already won several awards for this role, including a Golden Globe. The acting by all was of high-caliber. The story, while a little slow at times and left me wanting more, was interesting and intriguing. I do not at all regret my decision to go on a crowded Friday night and pay full price! I rate this one a A-!