Crazy Heart - ***1/2
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Duvall, Colin Farrell
Review: There are two types of great movies. One's that are great from a filmmaking standpoint, and one's that are made great by great performances. If you can put those two together (The Godfather) you have an all-time classic. Crazy Heart is of the latter category, a movie with only an average plot, but a couple phenomenal performances.
The movie centers around Jeff Bridges' Character "Bad" Blake and his current life situation. You see, "Bad" was once a big time country musician with hordes of followers (this is alluded to in the movies although not fully delved into), in fact, he even taught one of the current country music stars everything he knows, Tommy Sweet played by Colin Farrell.
However, Bad's current situation involves him trucking across the country in his beat up '78 Suburban to play at dive country bars in po-dunk towns all across the southern United States. During his travels he meets an attractive reporter (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal) who actually wants to write a story on Mr. Blake. The story will probably end up being a more "where are they now" type scenario to satisfy peoples curiosity of what happened to this country legend. However, this does not bother Bad. You see, Bad is not only an aging country star holding on to what little glory he had, he is also an alcoholic. Through most of the beginning of the story you get the idea it is this alcoholism that has run people away from his life and is no doubt part of the reason he is where he is, broke and meandering through life.
Bad has had many women in his life and, we are told, has been married 4 times, yet has never settled down. Yet, as he is now 57 years of age, and this reporter has come into his life with her son, he begins to think maybe it's time to settle down and make something of his life. It is from this point that the movie really begins to shine as we see more and more of Bad as a person and learn more about his love interest (Gyllenhaal) as they seemingly begin to fall in love with each other. I will leave the plot at that so as to not spoil it for those who want to see the movie for themselves.
Now, Jeff Bridges gives a great performance here as he portrays a character who has never cared about anyone truly, simply because he hasn't had to. He is at the point in his life now where he wants to care for someone, only he realizes there is nobody left in his life. Which is what Gyllenhaal's character represents to him, validation that he went his entire life w/o caring for somebody so that he could one day find her. This type of character has been portrayed before in film, but it is often hard to tow the line between nailing it as a performance and just coming off as cheesy. Bridges nails it; however, I don't feel he had the best performance in the movie.
The best performance belongs to Maggie Gyllenhaal. She is the real center of the movie and holds it together. She plays the part perfectly of someone who knows her spot in life, gets her wold turned upside down by this outsider, and has to teeter between falling for this man and keeping her feet on the ground in the best interest of her son and herself. She displayed a great range in this movie from the flirty, sexy reporter type, to the emotional mother of a son that means to her than her own life. It seems like an average role, and on paper it is, but it takes an actress with as much talent as Gyllenhaal to pull it off with such success. Meryl Streep has made a living out of turning average roles into Oscar worthy turns and perhaps this shows that Gyllenhaal will be able to do the same in the years to come. We will see, hopefully, I am right.
The rest of the cast is cast perfectly as well. Robert Duvall plays the role that is seems is the only role he can play these days, as the aging sage of a father ready to drop pearls of wisdom at a moments notice. Even so, he is still Robert Duvall and therefore makes the movie more enjoyable. Colin Farrell actually shows a good bit of acting talent I didn't know he had in his limited role. As Tommy Sweet, the country star who is more popular than Bad but owes it all to him, Farrell portrays everything pitch perfect. Sweet is not someone who is going to apologize to Bad for his success or that he is more successful than Bad ever was. However, he does not forget who he is and where he came from and tries to get Bad out of his "slump" and help him out as much as he can.
My biggest gripe with the movie came with the plot that seemed rather unrealistic. Perhaps it was the movies choice to be vague about the passage of time but the romance/love that is kindled between Bridges and Gyllenhaal just happens way too fast, and I fail to believe a romance like that could happen so quickly in real life. After just a few meetings she is all of the sudden ready to travel the road just to see him and bring her son? Something about this just doesn't quite sit right with me. However, I suppose they had to play loose with this part of the plot so they could find a way to get all they wanted out of the actors. If that is the case, then I can forgive. Other than that one gripe, this movie was very enjoyable and well worth your time.