Thursday, February 25, 2010

Crazy Heart (2009)


Stuck on the road most of the year, playing bowling alleys and rundown bars, ex-legend country singer, Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) is an alcoholic with little going for him. After meeting up and coming reporter Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal), Blake slowly starts to turn his life around.

Some great performances, and even better songs, trapped in mediocre direction and writing. That's about the best way I can summarize Scott Cooper's directorial coming out event. An event so saved by its performances I can see why Gyllenhaal and, to a greater extend, Bridges have gained so much love. Perhaps it is cosmic return for all of Bridges' hard work over the years, and some guilty feelings for the Rourke snub last year (yes, I still contend Penn's performance was only the 5th best of those nominated). Still, Crazy Heart has an admirably charming side to it. The kind of side that really gets audiences, and voters to rally behind it. It's dark, but never that dark. Sad, but never that sad. It's a product of hope, dreams, and lost ways. You know, sort of like what you used to hear musicians sing about.

Bridges is a delight to watch, even if his character is a bit on the scruffy side. He's got a great natural charm that really lights up the screen. While Gyllenhaal handles the emotionally torn romantic interest with a not so cheerful past. Together they create just a strong enough dynamic that it really helps make the film what it is. Of course smaller, but still solid, entries from Colin Farrell and Robert Duvall only add to this. They help to carry the film through a muddy middle portion, as the film tries to hammer out all of its characters' flaws and backstories. It creates a real emotional core for the film, bringing out those quiet moments, and making you really care for the audience.

Still, the entire time I couldn't help but be a little frustrated by Cooper's writing and directing. He's like an artist who can repaint all the great works, but can't figure out why his isn't the same. It, perhaps ironically, seems to really lack a little bit of heart. Blake is an enjoyable character, and easy to sympathize with, but we're never really let in. He drinks a lot, but then again it seems all worn down ex-celebrities do (just watch VH1). We never get to know why he is the way he is. Similarly for Jean. We see who she is, and we know there's reasons why she is that way, but we're never told. A couple subtle hints, and a fight, and that's about it. As well, during the really hard moments, Cooper seems to shy away from the emotion, and instead push the plot along. I hope in future films Cooper learns it is good to let some emotion sit, and resonate with the viewer, every once in a while. Still Cooper makes just enough of his writing to bring the film home. A good film, but not quite great.

About half way through Crazy Heart, it should become incredibly obvious to the viewer it's very reliant on two things: 1) the performances and 2) the songs. And when it has those two in unison it's a heck of a film, when it does it, it walks the thin line between good and mediocre.

4 better thoughts:

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

It is ironic that it seems to lack heart since coming out of it for a film that's supposed to be so "gritty" it all felt strangely artificial...and I wasn't that interested or impressed by Gyllenhaal's performance.

Castor said...

I thought it was a pretty good movie thanks to Bridges' performance and the music which is easy on the ears. However, the whole find a woman and redeem oneself aspect came out of nowhere and did not feel very genuine.

Candice Frederick said...

i am planning on seeing this movie over the weekend. i've been hearing the same thing by folks--good movie, not great and the acting vastly outweighs the actual film. Sonds an awful lot like the Wrestler in more ways than one. but i really enjoyed your review. good points made.

Univarn said...

@Andrew Perhaps, I just felt like I was watching Wrestler light.

@Castor I think it's just one of those things movies like this enjoy to have in them.

@Candice See I thought the wrestler was a very good movie with amazing performances. While this I would say is a good movie with great performances. Just a few steps down the ladder.

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