Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"No Place for the Weary Kind": Crazy Heart (2009)

People love a great redemption story. We love to see a down-on-his-luck, irascible character find his way back to the big time. In this respect Crazy Heart does not disappoint.
The film tells the story of legendary country singer Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges), who recently has fallen into a rut: he's stuck performing in bars and bowling alleys, and hasn't written any new material in years. He's also a chain-smoking, hard-drinking rambler who travels from one gig to another alone in his truck. When he meets Janie (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a single mother and reporter in Santa Fe, he not only falls in love but finds the woman who can redeem him.
Bridges does a phenomenal job playing Bad, lending a gravitas to him that makes the character seem ever more real. He mumbles many of his lines, which is sometimes hard to understand, but its acceptable since its true to the character. Gyllenhaal, too, is in fine form; her dewy eyes convey a long history of pain and loss, yet hope that she may have finally found a good man. Robert Duvall shows up for a fun bit part as Blake's buddy, and Colin Farrell plays a new country singer whom Blake mentored. I should say that Farrell is a much better actor than people give him credit for; unlike his closest comparison, Orlando Bloom, Farrell has proven that he is much more than a pretty face, and has chosen roles that challenge his abilities. There's a great future in store for him at this rate.
The most interesting aspect of Crazy Heart, though, is that it ultimately plays like this year's The Wrestler. Its a tale of redemption, with a main character who's estranged from his child, and seeks redemption through the one thing they've always been good at. The main character in both films is played by an actor who gives a "career-best" performance, and both managed to snag Supporting Actress nominations out of nowhere (admit it, you didn't see Marisa Tomei coming any more than you saw Maggie Gyllenhaal). Throughout the film, I couldn't help making the comparison. And for the record, I prefer Mickey Rourke and The Wrestler to Jeff Bridges and Crazy Heart (Bridges' best role to date: The Dude in The Big Lebowski).
Overall, Crazy Heart is a fine, if somewhat pedestrian, film, buoyed by its excellent performances and rollicking soundtrack.

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