The life of a musician, no matter how good it may seem in a music video (Lord knows how long and I hard I prayed to be a member of Mötley Crà¼e), it is no picnic — there is a shitload of behind the scenes work to do and more pitfalls than Pitfall Harry could jump across obstructing the path. Traveling on the road for 3/4 of the year makes having a meaningful relationship near impossible to have. Friends and family are replaced with drugs and alcohol. And the fame you may be lucky enough to achieve is, more often than not, fleeting.
This is precisely where grizzled country music star Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) finds himself when we first meet him in Crazy Heart. Five failed marriages. Children he hasn’t seen for decades. Chain smoking has shredded his lungs and the bottle has sponged his liver. And for all this monumental sacrifice, he finds himself playing his aged songs to fifty people at bowling alleys and local bars — his dreams of grandeur are now realized by his protégé, Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell).
To say he’s depressed and angry may be the understatement of the year. He is and you would be too.
The film itself, under the eye of newbie director Scott Cooper, takes the usual arc for a movie like this — man meets girl, man tries to better himself, man fucks up, girl splits. The saving grace of Crazy Heart, is quite obviously the acting. Jeff Bridges, deserving every bit of the Oscar he won, absolutely becomes Bad Blake. Not just for pulling off the look and the raspy singing (he actually sings the songs himself, proving anyone can become a country western star) but investing himself emotionally in the role. In one scene in particular, in which he plops his ass down on a bar stool, gets buzzing and loses sight of the boy in his care, he runs through the gamut of every emotion possible, as he realizes his old habits have, and will, continue to cost him everything near and dear to his heart.
That, which is near and dear to him, and whose son he loses, is Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Well acted, but not nearly as well as her co-star, she is a calculating woman — professional exterior (she is a journalist) with a vulnerable interior. She knows full well Blake is what he is, but she wants to believe with every fiber in her body that he can change for her (a character trait most women seem to possess). Thankfully for her, she makes most of her decisions with her brain and not her heart, which, is to be expected, since Crazy Heart wasn’t crafted to have a happy fairy tale ending.
And speaking of the ending, it feels rather, well, lame. After a tumultuous 100 minutes, the last few clean up any loose ends and makes sure there aren’t any hurt feelings to be had among the players of the film. Personally, I would have preferred it if things didn’t get so rosy (I’d be interested to see if the book, by Thomas Cobb, on which the film was based, ended in the same fashion).
But like I said, the success of Crazy Heart doesn’t rely so much on the plot (or the cheesified ending) as much as it does the character wearily plodding through it. Bad Blake is an interesting character. Jeff Bridges makes him so.