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March 3, 2010 | by  | in Film |
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Crazy Heart

Film

I’ve never been a fan of country music. I blame my father—there’s nothing to deter you from exploring the dusty roads of country quite like being subjected to the same Shania Twain tape on every family vacation you take. But if there’s one thing writer-director Scott Cooper does with Crazy Heart, that’s almost cure one of an aversion to that most suspicious of musical genres. First-time helmsman Cooper paints a compelling portrait of fictional country singer Bad Blake, a burned-out, booze-addled peddler of ‘real’ country. However, it’s the brush that Cooper paints with that makes the story so brilliant, that brush being legendary American actor Jeff Bridges.

Bridges, a giant of modern American acting by any standard, gives a nuanced, deceptively coarse performance here as Blake. While he may be a walking health hazard, baptised in bourbon and saturated with bitterness, there’s a sense that there’s a lot more going on underneath his callous exterior than anyone in the film gives him credit for. Bridges’ deep, fading eyes carry decades of pride, regret, anger, resignation, resentment and worry, and when the façade drops—which happens decidedly often during the film—we get a look at a man not so much fighting his growing cultural redundancy as he is fading away despite it. Bridges is ably supported by Maggie Gyllenhaal and Robert Duvall (and less ably by Colin Farrell, who sings like a country Jose Gonzalez and seems to always be distracted by something), but Crazy Heart is The Dude’s show, and what a show it is.

That’s not to say the film is perfect, though. For all the subtlety and intelligence of the opening half, Cooper’s script veers into cliché during the second act as everything falls apart around Bad Blake’s head. We’re given a pretty standard redemption arc that lacks the delicacy and the beauty of the first half—here, everything is laid out for you like towels in a hotel room. Cooper also makes a fatal flaw in adding an epilogue sequence, which only serves to drive into the audience’s skull something that the immediately preceding scene achieved with stunning grace and emotional force. Jeff Bridges definitely keeps the film’s head above water, but it’s hard not to think that it would be struggling to swim at the end if he wasn’t there.

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