“Crazy Heart” is the simple yet powerful film about Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges), a washed-up, hard-living, hard-drinking country music singer on the verge of obscurity. While traveling around hole-in-the-wall venues across the Southwest, he meets a local reporter (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who sees past the gruff exterior and helps Blake rediscover the artist within.
The story line may sound a little familiar, but what sets “Crazy Heart” apart are the characters and the performances. All the characters in the film are fully developed and have a depth that allows them to make choices that you don’t expect. Gyllenhaal is exceptional as a young single mother with a history of bad decisions in the dating department and conflicting feelings for Blake. Colin Farrell also pops up with an unexpectedly great performance as Blake’s protégé Tommy Sweet, who has found major success since his days in Blake’s band as one of “Bad’s Boys.”
While Gyllenhaal and Farrell are equally wonderful, it is clearly Bridges’ movie, and he steals the show. If you are expecting a reincarnation of Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski, you will be sorely disappointed. Bridges’ Blake is hard and rough, yet sweet and vulnerable. He is a multi-faceted wreck of a man and is the heart and soul of the film; he’s the one that makes you laugh, cry, wince and worry. This Oscar-nominated performance is one of the best in Bridges’ long career.
Another important aspect of the film is the score. Bridges and Farrell do all their own singing and are surprisingly good. The majority of the songs on the soundtrack were written specifically for the movie by T-Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham, and capture the mood of the film and the characters with genuine lyrics.
“Crazy Heart” will not be for everyone. It moves at a slower pace than many films, and if you utterly detest country music it might not be for you. However, anyone who is a fan of a good story and great acting should seek out this movie. It is currently playing in Salem and should be expanding to more theaters soon.