Movie Review: Crazy Heart

There are some movie characters I really wish were real. Bad Blake is one of them.

“Crazy Heart” is a great movie propelled by an even greater performance by Jeff Bridges. Bridges plays Bad Blake. Bad Blake is an aging, chain-smoking, alcoholic country singer who’s seen better days.
Bad is long past his glory days and is now taking small gigs at bars and bowling allies. He doesn’t really have much a home, he just tours across the American West and does any show he can for money. Along the way, he gets interviewed by music journalist Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and falls in love with her. The film shows Bad as deciding between two life paths: either rekindling his career, or recovering from his problems and settling down.
Bridges has been receiving the most praise for “Crazy Heart.” Obviously, I’m going to spend a large portion of this review talking about him. But before I get into that, lets talk about the film itself. The movie seems something like “The Wrestler” for the world of country music. However, the film amazingly manages to steer away from genre conventions. Just when you think it’s going to turn in one predictable direction, it steers away and goes somewhere you wouldn’t have expected. And there are certain events that occur that just have to occur. However, writer and director Scott Cooper makes them less much less contrived than they could’ve been.
I think two things that impressed me most about “Crazy Heart” are two things you’d never even notice: sound and set design. These two elements make the world “Crazy Heart” takes place in seem so real. When Bad plays in a bar, it sounds like he’s really playing a concert in a bar. Even every little detail, from the lights to the behavior of the audience when Bad plays at a bigger venue is pitch perfect. Were these shot at a studio, or on location? I’d rather not know, I’d rather just be sucked in by the magic of movies.
I also must commend Cooper for creating such engaging characters. Beyond Bad Blake, all of his friends, acquaintances, and lovers are equally compelling to watch.
But of course now is the reason you’ll likely see this movie: Jeff Bridges. Yes, it is one hell of a performance. Bridges takes a whiskey chugging burn out and turns him into someone you’ll actually like. Mainly, he makes the character seem so realistic through the smallest mannerisms. Most hilariously, he always opens his belt before he drives. Small details like this might seem insignificant, but they ultimately bring humanity to the character. In this case, a loosened belt shows Bad’s carefree attitude towards life.
Bad Blake is the role Bridges was born to play, and the role that will win him an Oscar. This is the most Dudesque performance Bridges has done in years. It’s a testament to how much “The Big Lebowski” has shaped Bridges career that the first scene of”Crazy Heart”‘ takes place in a bowling alley.
Truly, the best part of a good performance is how it makes you feel in relation to how the film is supposed to make you feel. No matter how emotionally cold Bad can be sometimes, there is still this level of warmness that is projected from his character at all times. We only get a very short glimpse of Bad’s 57 years on earth, but we get a fully realized understanding of Bad’s amiable personality and amazing ability to form relationships with pretty much any human being he meets.
At times, Cooper’s film feels sort of like a New Age Western, as Bad travels across the west staying in motel to motel doing what he can to make money. Not to mention, Bad perfectly embodies the reckless outlaw spirit.
“Crazy Heart” also contains what is likely the best original score of the year. The songs by T Bone Burnett bring extra layers of meaning to the film. The last song we see Bad write, a song that shares its name with the movie’s title, shows Bad’s true nature: no matter how much he changes, he’ll always be that same outlaw. He might go back to his old name, but he’ll still always be Bad Blake. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.