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May 16, 2010

Review: Crazy Heart

Aged country legend Bad Blake has a rocky career, an unhealthy lifestyle and a seemingly lonely life. The question the film asks is, "Is it ever too late to change?" Jeff Bridges stars in an Oscar winning role as Blake: a fictitious character that could represent any number of former country music stars. We meet Blake on one of his tour stops, which just so happens to be a bowling alley. He reveals his lifestyle pretty quickly with excessive smoking and drinking (mostly whiskey), one-night stands with star-struck fans and late nights on the stage. When he meets a local reporter in Santa Fe named Jane, played by Oscar nominee Maggie Gyllenhaal ("Stranger Than Fiction," "The Dark Knight"), he begins to think a bit differently. Blake sees a way to better himself in Jane and her four-year-old son Buddy. Young country star Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell, "Phone Booth," "In Bruges") is also a thorn in Blake's side, though one with good intentions. Once somewhat of a student to Blake, Sweet has learned everything he knows from the former star and has gotten famous from Blake's previous support and songs Blake has written for him to perform. As he becomes closer with Jane, Bad Blake finds reason to change his ways, and a few career opportunities open up to him as he begins to write new songs, which is something he hasn't done in years.

The problem here is not so much the story. It's a familiar story with heart, and the cast is easy to fall in love with. What lacks is the dramatic event the film builds up to, but doesn't exactly deliver. There are several dramatic moments that create tension and help push the story. It just feels like something bigger is coming, and the ending itself, although it wraps up nicely, feels anti-climactic. The best part of the ending is hearing the song that Blake has been working on in pieces throughout the film.

While watching "Crazy Heart," it's hard not to compare the story and the character of Bad Blake to 2008's "The Wrestler," starring Oscar nominee Mickey Rourke in what is argued to be the comeback performance of his career. Jeff Bridges wasn't exactly in need of a comeback, so his performance doesn't seem to carry the weight that Rourke's did, despite his Oscar win. Personally I don't feel Rourke is that strong of an actor, but he was fantastic in "The Wrestler." That film, although not as visually pleasing, had a story with even more heart and emotion, and felt so real and personal. The dramatic moments were even more dramatic, the main character, similar in career and personal situations, fell harder and further with each misstep. Above all, it builds to a dramatic moment and ends in such a beautiful way that I can't say I've seen before. The stories, actors and films as a whole are much different, but so similar at the same time. The 2009 Academy Awards saw the much-deserving Sean Penn beat out Rourke for the Best Actor Oscar, but I think if you put Bridges' Bad Blake up against Rourke's Randy "The Ram" Robinson...ya know, that would be a pretty good fight.

Jane: Where did all those songs come from?
Bad Blake: Life, unfortunately.


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