Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Film Review - Crazy Heart

Film #14 of 2010 - Crazy Heart

Films about self destructive, down on their luck has-beens who seek redemption is nothing new to the film industry, from films like A Star is Born to 2008's The Wrestler. Crazy Heart is one of the latest examples of this genre, starring Jeff Bridges as Bad Blake, a country musician who had some fame a couple of decades ago, but is currently relegated to playing small bars and bowling alleys. Though his audiences have greatly decreased, he still plays to a rabid fan base, and it's at one of these gigs that he meets Jean, (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a music reporter for a local paper who first interviews him, then begins a romance with him. Unfortunately, the relationship is tested as Blake, who is in ill health, continues to drink heavily, partly because of his fallen idol status, and partly because he has to watch the musician he mentored, Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell) enjoy stardom.

*Kind of spoilerish*

I wish I could say that Crazy Heart was good, but truthfully, it's no more than an average film. While it was not difficult to sit through, I could not help but notice the glaring mediocrity throughout. Blake is a complete mess for most of the film, but then things get really easy for him. The conflict between Blake and Sweet, which was a huge part of the film and a big area of resentment for Blake seemed to suddenly disappear in a puff of smoke after a brief and not so cathartic conversation between the two that didn't amount to much more than talking about "the good old days". And the romance between Blake and Jean, which, though there were some visible sparks, seemingly started out of the blue, didn't make any sense for most of the movie and then didn't really go anywhere. Gyllenhaal did a good job with the part that she was given, but the role, while necessary, was annoyingly superficial, a word which is a good overall descriptor for the film, especially the ending.

So much has been said about Bridge's performance, and he's won all of the acting awards he's been up for so far this awards season. Frankly, I felt like I was watching a slightly more pathetic "The Dude" from The Big Lebowski through most of the movie, which is to say, I was just kind of watching Jeff Bridges be Jeff Bridges. He's a rumpled, easy-going and affable man, but performance was not a stretch, and honestly, I wasn't impressed. From all of the adulation bestowed upon his "tour de force" performance, I was expecting something at least a little better, and while he was good, I would actually vote for other performances that were better, namely Colin Firth's in A Single Man, which was light years better than Bridges'.

When we saw Crazy Heart, we were sitting in a large, sold out auditorium, and though I was confident in my initial assessment of the film, I felt a little better when I heard snippets of chatter about the film around me, namely that it just wasn't that good. Even the celebrated music was just okay, though I fault the film less than the fact that this kind of music isn't really my thing. Bridges and Farrell did a good job singing, however. When it all comes down to it, Crazy Heart is as formulaic and unchallenged as any average Hollywood film that, without the buzz about Bridges' overrated performance, would have normally gone straight to video. Maybe it should have.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

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