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Review: Crazy Heart (2009)

Crazy Heart (2009)

Directed by: Scott Cooper

Premise: A washed up country music singer-songwriter (Jeff Bridges) gets a shot at redemption when he begins a relationship with a younger woman (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and reunites with his protégé (Colin Farrell).

What Works: Crazy Heart features one of Jeff Bridges’ best performances. The character of Bad Blake is simultaneously disgusting and charming and gruff and vulnerable, and that dichotomy makes him interesting to watch. Maggie Gyllenhaal and Colin Farrell are also impressive in the supporting cast, as Gyllenhaal sells her character’s unlikely romance and Farrell conveys the aura of a disillusioned rock star. There is also a lot of humor to Crazy Heart, which gives the movie a personality and lends its lead character some appeal. The musical sequences are also well done and filmed in such a way to suggest what kind of a showman Blake is and his rapport with the audience, while not stopping the film dead in its tracks the way films about musicians are prone to do.

What Doesn’t: Although Crazy Heart is overall well made, the story is fairly generic and follows a familiar redemption plotline seen in films like Walk the Line, Ray, and especially Tender Mercies, which this film draws from heavily. While Crazy Heart does omit most of the clichés associated with an alcoholic recovery story, it doesn’t replace them with anything and so the character’s journey to sobriety is cheapened and doesn’t have any pitfalls or challenges despite the fact that he spends much of his time playing music in bars. The finale of the film is problematic as it wraps up the story on a beat that betrays Gyllenhaal’s character.

Bottom Line: Crazy Heart is worth a look for its acting and musical performances. Although audiences may have a sense that they have seen this movie before, it is a well done exercise in formula.

Episode: #277 (February 21, 2010)