I've been down so long I'm lookin' up to see the bottom. Notwithstanding an all-that-it's-cracked-up-to-be performance from Jeff Bridges, quite frankly, I preferred this film when it was called The Wrestler and starred Mickey Rourke last year. The plots are nearly identical.
Bridges, however, is just too damn good here and it's for this reason alone that Fox Searchlight dug Crazy Heart out of the direct-to-video bin, dusted it off and got it into the theatres late last year. That the film doesn't quite measure up to Bridges' all-in performance as down and out country singer Bad Blake isn't a big deal. I certainly sat through worse. I read a scathing comment on IMDb.com from a someone who thought the Maggie Gyllenhaal love interest character was insulting to women. Why, they asked, would a young professional woman fall for this boozy old drunk? The writer chalked it up to male fantasy film making and they may have a point.
Or do they? If there's ever been a living doppelganger for Bridges' Bad Blake, it's my old pal Brad. They look almost identical, both drink like fishes, talk with the same charming southern cowboy drawl and say “darlin'” a lot in bars. Brad has spent his life chasing a myriad of woman who should have, and likely did, know better off his front porch. Over 60+ years he's had a string of relationships a mile long with everyone from world famous art restorers (he married that one, and to be fair, for a long time), star chefs (he also married one of the two he dated, albeit briefly), one of the girls from CBC's As It Happens, a bunch of attractive (and much younger) professional women, and even my sister for a short time. They were all seemingly enamored with his bad boy self, which makes me wonder just how far off-base this bit of Crazy Heart really is. It may be a male fantasy but plenty of women seem just as taken with the kind of character Bridges portrays here. I have a feeling the title might give some indication that this might even be the point of the film.
Crazy Heart is worth a watch for Bridges' excellent performance. It's got some good moments and the songs are pretty decent, even if you don't love either kind of music. T-Bone Burnett creates an authentic score and I think Bridges is actually singing those songs and doing a pretty good job too. Everyone else in the film is window dressing. They all play their parts well, but this is Bridge's movie. It'll remind of Jessica Lange's Oscar winning performance in Blue Sky (1994) if you've seen it. Searing performances in deadly average films.
And a quick hats-off to Robert Duvall. If ever an actor made everyone around him just a little bit better, it's him. He's rarely the lead, but always memorable and he hasn't stopped working since To Kill a Mockingbird nearly 50 years ago. Man I like that guy.