Directed by: Scott Cooper
Written by: Scott Cooper (screenplay), Thomas Cobb (novel)
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell, and Paul Herman
It’s not uncommon that a performance is the sole interest in a film. Sometimes an actor or actress digs so deeply into a role that they seem born to play that it overshadows all else in the film. This, as you can probably tell, is the case with Crazy Heart.
Jeff Bridges’ status as an underdog in Hollywood ended this year when he was awarded the Best Actor Oscar at the Academy Awards. While the ceremony does often offer up the trophies as a career summation, sometimes the actual performance deserves it as well. This is also the case with Bridges. He brings to life washed-up country singer Bad Black so well that his portrayal gives this movie its depth and purpose.
First time director Scott Cooper was wise in letting his actors take a hold of his script, however lousy and mundane it may be. For all its well intentions, the movie is boring. By the commercial it looked like a country rehashing of The Wrestler, but Mr. Cooper is no Aronofsky. As far as debuts go, this is underwhelming.
The film begins with Bad Blake going to a gig at a bowling alley. Right off the bat fans of Bridges will smile as the screen basically winks at them. Blake is a hopeless alcoholic, surviving on his reputation with old fans to get by. He chats up a liquor store owner until the man offers to buy him the whiskey he has no money for.
All of these interesting scenes take place in the beginning and the end, and in between we’re pummeled with rehashed filler and musical performances. T Bone Burnett may have written some excellent music for this film, but songs are repeated far too often. With the exception of the excellent “The Weary Kind,” none of the songs were good enough to be used multiple times in the movie.
Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Blake’s only chance at a normal life in the form of a young reporter who charms him during an interview and genuinely cares for him. Bridges and Gyllenhaal have some terrific chemistry, but her Best Supporting Actress nomination seems undeserved mostly because the script doesn’t allow her character to achieve her full potential. Other than an emotionally-charged scene where she spontaneously breaks down while Blake comes up with a new song, she doesn’t get to show off her skill.
The movie as a whole isn’t a total waste. Colin Farrell struts into a few scenes and gives Bridges a run for his acting money, but it further proves my point. This is an acting movie, though it acts like it’s something more.