Crazy Heart | Scott Cooper, 2009
When it comes to movies about a washed up somebody who is trying to make a comeback, most of the weight is put upon the person that portrays the main character, as well as those that are a big part of the character’s life. However, what the director does when they are working with one of these stories, as well as the strength of the script, are also very important. For a recent example of how to do these right, we have to look at Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler. It is not a great movie just because of Mickey Rourke’s and Marisa Tomei’s performances, but because Aronofsky decided it to shoot it in such as way as to make us feel like we are flies on the wall, as if we are with The Ram when he is going through all of those life changing experiences. Crazy Heart delivers on the performances, and those alone makes this worth watching (and are the saving grace of the movie), but it severely lacks in those other important things.
Crazy Heart is about Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) a once popular country singer, who is now forced to play in places like bars and bowling alleys, while his protégé Tommy Sweet (Collin Farrel) is enjoying all the fame. He is always drunk, chain smokes, and sleeps with just about any woman who throws herself at him. One day while in New Mexico, he meets a reporter from a local news paper who wants to interview him. She does, but overnight they develop feelings for each other. From then on, their relationship grows, Bad has another shot at fame, but there are still some challenges that need to be overcome.
As I said, the best things about the film are the performances. Jeff Bridges own this movie as Bad Blake. It took me a couple of minutes to forget I was watching Bridges here (for reasons to be addressed shortly), but once his performance kicked in, I was blown away. I’m glad that he finally won an Oscar, and that it wasn’t just one of those given for mediocre performance given by a beloved actor. He actually deserved it. Maggie Gyllenhaal is equally great as the reporter that Bad falls in love with despite her better instinct. Then there are a couple of good cameos from Collin Farrell and Robert Duval. The music, what the movie is about, is also great.
Now, on to what brings the movie down. At first, everything was fine. The script seemed to be following a good path, and the direction, while flawed, was proper. But then the third act came about, and it seems like Scott Cooper was so keen into not giving it a Hollywood ending, that it took a dive in quality. By that point everything was wraping up nicely, but there were still about twenty minutes of time to go, so they threw an absurd subplot to damage the relationship. Also, before that, there were some moments that are played for dramatic effect, yet 30 seconds later they are used for laughs. It was based on a book, so I bet these moments were in there, but I can’t help but feel that this is not how they were meant to be portrayed. Now, the first part of the book might have taken place in a bowling alley, but I think it was in Cooper’s as well as the movie’s best interest to change that setting. In case you didn’t know it, Jeff Bridges starred in a movie by the Coen Brothers called The Big Lebowski. There, he gives his best performance as the now iconic “The Dude.” For this reason, I could not help but chuckle during that opening scene. That scene is just a Roger Deakins short of being a shot for shot copy of the Coens movie. Cooper either thought it would be cute or had not seen the movie, but it is extremely distracting.
Crazy Heart is an enjoyable movie, but its flaws are too big to ignore. Even so, the music and the performances make this worthwhile. This movie further proves that The Dude abides.