Crazy Heart movie review: Country singer Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) has been through the wringer—failed marriages, failed albums, failed finances and way too much success with alcohol. He sees a chance for redemption when he meets a pretty journalist and single mother (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and starts to care for her and her young son. He also gets an invite from a former protégé (Colin Farrell), now a superstar, to go on tour and resuscitate his career. But getting your life back on track is never as easy as it sounds.
The buzz: Originally scheduled to open in 2010, distributor Fox Searchlight bumped up the movie’s release in the hopes of scoring Oscar attention for Bridges. He’s overdue for a win, earning four nominations since 1972 but never the big prize. Adapted from a novel by Thomas Cobb, “Crazy Heart” is totally Bridges’ vehicle, built by actor-turned-first-time filmmaker Scott Cooper and produced by a team including co-star Robert Duvall (who earned an Oscar for the thematically similar 1983 drama “Tender Mercies”) and music legend T-Bone Burnett (who composed the film’s original country songs).
The verdict: An actor who rises to every challenge, Bridges towers over “Crazy Heart” the way Mickey Rourke dominated the similarly themed “The Wrestler” last year. It’s a career cornerstone performance, showcasing Bridges’ formidable acting chops and less obvious, but no less impressive, musical skills. Unfortunately, the film itself isn’t quite up to “Wrestler”-level character study. From the excessive drinking to the love of a good woman, we’ve been down this pokey, countrified road before. (It might have been more interesting to explore the shifting dynamics of friendship and fame in the relationship between Bridges and a very good Farrell, but that subplot is limited to a few scenes.) Not that the modest story makes Bridges’ accomplishment any less vital or Burnett’s music any less pleasurable. Cooper doesn’t break any ground on his debut but he knows how to spotlight the best of what he has, and in this case that’s more than enough.