Title: Crazy Heart
Author: Best Actor - Jeff Bridges (2009)
The powerful story of a country music star’s rocky road to redemption. Bad Blake is a boozy, broken-down singer who reaches for salvation with the help of Jean, a journalist who discovers the real man behind the music. But will Bad’s hard-livin’ ways and crazy heart cost him his last chance at a comeback?
In a career filled with unforced, naturalistic performances, Jeff Bridges gives one of his finest in Crazy Heart. His oft-married, booze-soaked troubadour Bad Blake has just rolled into Santa Fe when he meets Maggie Gyllenhaal’s journalist Jean. “Where do all the songs come from?” she asks during their initial encounter. “Life, unfortunately,” he sighs. Against Jean’s better judgment, her fling with Blake blooms into a full-fledged relationship. Between gigs, Blake hangs out with the divorcée and her 4-year-old son, with whom he establishes an instant rapport, possibly because the musician is just an overgrown kid himself (and also because he hasn’t seen his own boy in years). While Blake plays juke joints, his protégé, Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell, cast against type to fine effect), plays stadiums, but just when director Scott Cooper’s debut seems to be going down the same path as A Star Is Born, Sweet offers his mentor an opportunity that could revive his reputation—at the expense of his still-healthy ego. Between Jean and Tommy, things start looking up for Blake until a critical error puts his stab at redemption in jeopardy. Once Robert Duvall enters the scene as Blake’s favorite bartender, it’s clear that Cooper has Tender Mercies in his sights, but Crazy Heart, which features music by T-Bone Burnett and rough-hewn singing by its Golden Globe-winning star, plays more like a sincere cover version than a strikingly original composition. Still, like Duvall’s in Tender Mercies, Bridges’s performance is Oscar-worthy. —Kathleen C. Fennessy