What better movie entertainment for a long-time fan of country music than a movie about the rugged life of a country singer struggling to make a living when his best days are clearly behind him. Over the years, country music fan’s plates have been filled with more than chicken and grits: our Nashville cinema appetites have been satisfied with offerings like Nashville, The Electric Horseman, Honeysuckle Rose, Coal Miner’s Daughter, Urban Cowboy, Pure Country, and Tender Mercies, just to name more than a few.
The latest is Crazy Heart, starring Jeff Bridges as Bad Blake, a country singer and songwriter whose life certainly imitates the most stereotypical country song: a life crumbling with alcohol, divorce, broken families, and one-night stands followed by hundreds of hard miles to the next concert gig. We first meet Blake as he’s racing for the bottom-drunk and broke, he’s driving a beat up old truck to his next gig-playing the lounge at a bowling alley. He’s furious at his manager for booking him at such a venue, where the owner refuses him free drinks but offers him the option of all the free bowling he wants.
Our main character angrily rejects offers to perform as the opening act for rising country star Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell) whose career Jeff Bridges’ character helped launch. Blake’s boozing also prevents him from earning income from an area he once was successful in: songwriting.
Robert Duvall, one of the producers of Crazy Heart, also plays a small role in this film that has been compared to the aforementioned Tender Mercies. In that 1983 release, Duvall plays the lead role of a washed-up country music performer. It had to be apparent to him and to this viewer of Crazy Heart that we’ve seen this all before.
Crazy Heart is entertaining enough to watch, and contains a number of pleasant country songs performed quite well by Jeff Bridges and Colin Farrell. Crazy Heart should enjoy a good deal of attention with Bridges’ portrayal garnering him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. He’s worthy of the Oscar nod for his strong depiction of an entertainer desperate for the attention of his next fan, the next dollar and the next drink. Maggie Gyllenhaal is equally charming as Bad Blake’s love interest and single mother Jean Craddock. Craddock is a small town journalist who first meets Blake to interview him, and soon falls for our tragic figure. That Craddock finds Blake in any way appealing is one of the many contrived story lines that keeps Crazy Heart from moving up from good to great-if it was a country song, it would be hard pressed to crack the top ten.
Guest Review by Jim McNamara