reviewed by Marc Glassman
Scott Cooper, director & script; Stephen Bruton & T Bone Burnett, music; Cooper & Robert Duvall, co-producers w/three others
Starring: Jeff Bridges (Bad Blake), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Jean Craddock), Robert Duvall (Wayne), Jack Nation (Buddy), Colin Farrell (Tommy Sweet), Tom Bower (Bill Wilson), James Keane (Manager)
Stop me if you’ve read this before: Jeff Bridges is brilliant as a dissolute middle aged, down on his luck, but still gifted kind of guy in…Ok, you have read it before about The Big Lebowski and Tideland and Wild Bill. But, hey, it’s true again in Crazy Heart, a film about a country music star named Bad Blake who’s middle aged, down on his luck, but still gifted enough to seduce 30-something reporter Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal), while she’s interviewing him.
Before you can start singing “September Song,” the older man-younger woman dynamic is being played out, though admittedly to country and western tunes, not Kurt Weill. Luckily, the songs are by T Bone Burnett, the man behind the soundtracks to O Brother Where Art Thou and Walk the Line and producer of the hugely successful Alison Kraus—Robert Plant collaborative CD Raising Sand. Burnett spent time mentoring Bridges and the actor delivers his “Bad Blake” vocals quite convincingly.
The problem with Crazy Heart isn’t with Bridges or the songs or the recreation of the honky-tonk environment that a run-down country singer would necessarily make his own. It’s with the cliché-ridden story line involving the aging alcoholic singer and his last chance at love with a good woman. We know that things will end badly; they have to in such melodramatic plots.
And although writer-director Scott Cooper has added a sweet coda offering some salvation for “Bad,” Crazy Heart still feels like a B movie with some A picture aspirations. If you love down home country or Jeff Bridges, see this film now; if not, the DVD will be arriving at video stores by late spring.