sat 22/06/2024

Crazy Heart | reviews, news & interviews

Crazy Heart

Crazy Heart

Jeff Bridges relishes an unzipped role as a wash-out seeking revival

So Bad it's true: 'It's Bridges' particular gift to invite interest and respect even when most ravaged'

Jeff Bridges cranks his dude status up a notch or 10 or 20, and his payoff looks likely to be this much-loved actor's first-ever Oscar. So what if writer-director Scott Cooper's film plays out like the careful illustration of a Hollywood pitch: The Wrestler as filtered through the prism of Tender Mercies (with the Academy Award-winning lead of that Bruce Beresford movie, Robert Duvall, on hand here to make the connection complete)?

It's high time Bridges stepped up to the podium, and here he really is very good.

I wish I could muster the same enthusiasm for the entirety of a film that has a by-the-books feel in its tale of a washed-out country-and-western travellin' man who is redeemed (well, maybe) by the love of a much younger woman - a journalist, no less. (Cue to female scribes everywhere, who will doubtless start looking for ageing rockers whom they can profile and then make over.)

Coasting on past glory as he trawls some rather two-bit venues studded around the American southwest, Bad Blake is interviewed by single mother Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal, herself a 2010 Oscar nominee), and begins to shake off the weariness that seems to possess him to the core. How spent a soul is he? Let's just say that Bad, age 57, has 10 bucks in his pocket, four ex-wives, and a 28-year-old son that he hasn't seen since the boy was four. (Oh, and he almost never bothers to zip up his jeans.)

Small wonder, then, that Bad is a prime candidate for cinematic rehabilitation but that his relationship with Jean won't be a smooth ride either. Reporting that he has "little gas left in the tank", Bad Blake makes the state of petrol and his own exhausted psyche one and the same, with Jean arriving just in time to give him an MOT.

Exactly why Jean warms to a guy who tells her near the start that he was never "famous for charm" is simply one of those attractions one has to take on faith, just as some baulked at Marisa Tomei's surrender to the comparably damaged Mickey Rourke in last year's The Wrestler.  On the other hand, it's Bridges's particular gift to invite interest and respect even when most ravaged, which in turn means that Bad will inevitably find the son he has never known in Jean's young boy, Buddy (Jack Nation), who is the same age as was Bad's own son when they last had any contact. You only need to know that a crucial scene involves Buddy being left in Bad's care to guess how that particular sequence will probably end.

If the arc of the film is familiar, and then some, the rewards lie in the details and in an awareness of Bridges as a sizeable singing talent who connects up with the T Bone Burnett music the way, say, Judi Dench knows her way instinctively around Shakespeare. Indeed, Bad Blake is seen through the movie working his way toward a number, "The Weary Kind" (the film's theme), whose lyrics point toward the possibility of renewal: "This ain't no place for the weary kind / This ain't no place to lose your mind." And Bridges, the least actor-ish of actors, owns this physically worn part from far within, his grizzled, emotionally cautious Bad opening up as soon as the music starts. Think Nick Nolte and Kris Kristofferson rolled into a newly minted, paunchy whole, the film's geographical milieu at the same time recalling the parched, dusty Texan environs of The Last Picture Show, Bridges's breakout movie.

Duvall knows this territory better than most and is at his best in a scene where his bar-owning Wayne joins Bad on a fishing trip in which self-reflection is revealed to be the catch of the day. Unbilled but very much along for the ride is a ponytailed Colin Farrell as a gig headliner called Tommy who has more affection for Bad than is at first returned, and there's a neat joke inherent in having such a famous movie bad-boy play the character who does not in fact go by the name of Bad.

As for Gyllenhaal, her lack of affectation is entirely right for a movie that while generically conceived has its intriguing moments. And in case you were wondering whether she gets to speak the line, "That's good, Bad", well - spoiler alert! - she does.

Crazy Heart opens Friday in London and nationwide on March 5.


I love Jeff's movies. This one's sounds too deep to me, though. I'd rather see him in the usual action-packed movies. I think I'll just wait for this one on Netflix.

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