Crazy Heart

MECHANICALCrazy Heart, directed by Scott Cooper, and adapted from the novel by Thomas Cobb follows a pretty stereotypical plot.  Jeff Bridges stars as country music singer Bad Blake, a performer who has seen better days.  He is overweight, always drunk, and looks like he could use a good shower with a shave.  Bad travels the country, performing his old tunes in bowling alleys and bars.  He sleeps in motels that don’t look a whole lot better than the cab of his truck, and argues with his manager about future gigs.  All in all, there is not a whole lot going for him but his past because he refuses to work on new material.

When he plays in Santa Fe he is introduced to a young, inexperienced journalist named Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal).  Soon, the two find themselves inexplicably attracted.  Well, inexplicably for Jean’s character anyway.  Bad is known to surrender to the ladies, has had a number of marriages, and is no stranger to groupies.  Jean does not resist the connection between them for long and soon introduces him to her son, Buddy.  She smiles as the long-haired singer and Buddy make biscuits before Bad begins another road trip.
Bad’s scenes with Buddy are really what bring out the personality of the musician.  Before these scenes, Bad is not easy to get attached to, or very lovable.  He is just easy to feel sorry for.  But, placed in a warm-lit kitchen and covered in flour while teaching a tiny boy how to bake, he seems more real.  Jean’s observation of this scene also builds an attachment that is more identifiable: he is good with Buddy, he is gentle… he must be a good man after all.  Jean is in search of a man who does not take advantage of her, or Buddy.
Despite his new relationship, Bad cannot seem to shed his bad habits.  He is soon placed in a position where he needs Jean’s help, and ends up testing the limits of their love.  Once he reaches the breaking point, he can no longer deny that he needs to beat his addiction to alcohol.  It is here that Jeff Bridges reveals the core of Bad Blake as he fights to recover with the aid of his friend Wayne (Robert Duvall).  The film is lifted from its cookie cutter plot by its actors.  Each one seems to get right at the true nature of their characters.  Each one reveals such frailty that it is impossible to deny the depth of the story.
Jeff Bridges is flawless as he struggles to find his artistry and to begin with a clean slate again.  He seeks inspiration and finds it in Jean.  By the end of the film, Bad becomes someone to fight for and hope for, and it is easier to see why Jean fell for him after all.
-Kelly Smart

Directed by Scott Cooper; written by Mr. Cooper, based on the novel by Thomas Cobb; director of photography, Barry Markowitz; edited by John Axelrad; music by Stephen Bruton and T Bone Burnett; production designer, Waldemar Kalinowski; produced by Mr. Cooper, Robert Duvall, Rob Carliner, Judy Cairo and Mr. Burnett; released by Fox Searchlight Pictures. Running time: 1 hour 51 minutes.

WITH: Jeff Bridges (Bad Blake), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Jean Craddock), Robert Duvall (Wayne), Tom Bower (Bill Wilson), James Keane (Manager), Colin Farrell (Tommy Sweet), William Marquez (Doctor), Ryan Bingham (Tony) and Paul Herman (Jack Greene).

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