Crazy Heart

Review by Lorien Haynes @LorienHaynes

Directed by

Scott Cooper

Starring

Jeff Bridges

Anticipation.

The Dude channels Van Morrison and Leonard Cohen.

Enjoyment.

More floating island than ‘Islands in the Stream’.

In Retrospect.

A Bridge too far.

Writer/director Scott Cooper clearly has potential, but he has trusted too much in his star alone.

Country music is heart and soul. It is tragedy, romance, and lament. It’s the beat of Middle America. It’s Dolly and Cash and Patsy. It’s easy listening but it’s essential. A film about a waning country music star needs a heartbeat and soundtrack to match; both of which are palpably missing from Crazy Heart.

Jeff Bridges plays Bad Blake. Trailing the States alone, playing Mexican bars and bowling alleys, the guy pees in a bottle, appears incapable of doing up either belt or fly, and peers out at the world from the bottom of a whisky tumbler.

From over the rotunda that is his belly he spies and speaks to journalist Maggie Gyllenhaal, who, for some contrived reason, appears as his conscience – a mirror in which Blake sees himself and finds the vision shabby. Why she climbs into his bed and opens both her own life and that of her four-year-old son is never explained. Whether father figure or exercise in self-abuse, their relationship is what wakes him.

It’s not possible to flaw Bridges here. Akin to Falstaff, the detail of his characterisation – from stagger to cough to swagger to song – is fascinating. But he needs more thorough contextualisation to fly.

Potentialities are rife but momentary. When we meet his nemesis and protégé Tommy Sweet (an uncredited Colin Farrell), their antagonism, like his relationship with Gyllenhaal, is intangible. Whether the young gun represents his former self, his reaction to decrepitude, or the son he never had is depicted simply in a duet they sing together; camera circling, reminiscent of Johnny and June walking the line. It’s curious and emotive but hardly insightful.

Similarly, there’s a wonderful scene with Bridges and Robert Duvall in a fishing boat, suggestive of a relationship that we never see. It’s as if the emphasis is contrapuntal – all slightly off the beat.

Debut writer/director Scott Cooper clearly has potential, but he has trusted too much in his star alone without giving him a backing band, decent lyrics or a real passage to redemption. Bridges sings, “Pick up your crazy heart and give it one more try.” Cooper might do the same.

Published 19 Feb 2010

Tags: Jeff Bridges Scott Cooper

Anticipation.

The Dude channels Van Morrison and Leonard Cohen.

Enjoyment.

More floating island than ‘Islands in the Stream’.

In Retrospect.

A Bridge too far.

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