Country music, and I mean good, soulful music that both comes from and punches you in the heart, often tells an honest story, sometimes exaggerated. That story can have ups and downs, tell tales of love lost and love found, and probably makes more than one reference to drinking all night, bowling alley bar assumed. This good, raw music helps tell the story of one Bad Blake, who epitomizes that cowboy soundtrack, and no one other than Jeff Bridges could pull off such a character study as found in Scott Cooper’s Crazy Heart.
Bad is a living cliché. In his prime, his stature would have made him a contemporary of the Highwaymen and his charisma certainly would have been a welcome addition – as it stands, Bridge’s Oscar-worthy performance eases together elements of both Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings. His prime, now well good and done, Bad is consigned to playing bowling alley bars with session bands that idolize the man looking past the fact that he’s more a drunk than a singer. Then true love hits and his muse returns by way of Maggie Gyllenhaal’s plucky single-mom reporter, giving way to a new song.
Bridges is the film and lays out Bad’s life in a true train-wreck style. As off-the-rails he gets, though, the constant twinkle in his eye proves that he is a charmer and endears the viewer to the character. One of the provided insights is his relation to Colin Farrell’s Tommy Sweet, a one-time Bad Blake protégé who is now playing to sold-out amphitheaters. Bridges shows a range of complex emotions from resentment over Sweet’s popularity, anger at the distance they kept, and prideful awe recognizing that Sweet truly is a performer. Farrell supplies his wonder factor proving that this Irish bloke can sing country – and dammit, he can sing well.
As with many character-driven movies, the narrative tale becomes a minor chord and plays itself out with the familiarity of other songs. Instead of the typical elevator story of found fame – lost fame – regained fame, Crazy Heart begins at the bottom and sinks lower before getting back to ground level. The progression of the man, however, the heart, is much more important that the trappings of a three-act format. Crazy Heart, and Jeff Bridge’s Bad Blake, is among the best.
“That’s the way it is with good ones, you’re sure you’ve heard them before.” -Bad