In the closing scene of Crazy Heart we see the clear blue sky. A vast landscape widescreen shot. It’s probably the first in the movie, a background frame that suggests cheerful and optimistic. Which forms the perfect foil to the movie played before. A story of Bad Blake played by great Jeff Bridges (The Big Lebowski, True Grit) who is a chronic alcoholic, smoker, broke, worn-out country singer once was popular and had his share of success. Now all he is stuck with is the singing with the local bands in bars or bowling alleys.
He hasn’t lost it all though, a little glimmer is still there. Despite his heavy drinking he should be unpredictable and not showing up at the work. But we hear he never missed one in two decades. During one session of his show, he lets the band take over the song, makes a trip to backstage so he can puke in the trashcan, pull himself together to rejoin just in time. He wakes up with a groupie next morning.
It would have been a tale of self-destruction like Billy Wilder’s The Lost Weekend if it is not for entry of journalist Jean played wonderfully by Maggie Gyllenhaal. Bad has his share of women as well in his heydays and still score one now and then. But this woman is something else. They slowly bond together, fall for each other but in adult way. She has her own baggage. A failed marriage and four year old son.
There is a scene where Jean and Bad Blake are in his motel bed. She leaned against the headboard. He is laying down. She is interviewing him in one o’clock in the morning after his show with local band in a bar Santa Fe. They are having a drink. “Where do all these songs come from?”, Jean asks. Blade replies, “Life, unfortunately”. Dialog in the film has the right note lived-in quality. There are many. Bridges in his first real meeting with Jean delivers a stellar line to her. “I wanna talk about how bad you make this room look like”. She blushes.
He has an old friend played by Robert Duvall who is also producer of the film and Tommy Sweet (Collin Farrell) is his onetime protégé who is now big hit who hasn’t forgotten his mentor nor respect. They in their own way help him in his third act redemption.
Apart from actors music is good old country. Songs about loss, longing, scotch whiskey, life (Jeff Bridges done his own singing). We see it all. We like it fine. I immediately added these songs in my iPod.
I like small movies. I like the ambition scaled perfectly. It never tries to be something it’s not ever going to be. Crazy Heart is such a movie. A great performance by its lead and strong supporting actors make it almost perfect. Surprisingly for a movie whose fate would have been a straight release on cable found distributers in form of Fox studio, got a wide release, gained critical and mass acclaim and finally won two Oscars. One for best actor. Another for best song. Crazy.
* Bad **Average *** Good ****Very Good ***** Outstanding