When I first heard that Jeff Bridges was playing a down-on-his-luck, alcoholic loser stuck in shitty gigs and staring down the barrel of his own insignificant demise, I immediately tried to recall when the hell and to whom I had sold the rights to my life story. And what had I done with all the front money?
As it turns out, there was no cause for alarm. Bridges plays a country singer in Crazy Heart, not a handsome, pithy wordsmith. The rights to my biopic are still wholly mine (ready when you are Russell Crowe and Wes Anderson!) and can be purchased via this website. For about the price of a bottle of Rémy Martin.
Crazy Heart is one of those star vehicles that come late in an actor's career; the purpose of which is to finally earn him the acting awards that have wrongfully eluded him from more worthwhile projects. The sort of role that the Academy takes very seriously because they know they have royally fucked up in the past by overlooking the thespian's best work when it really mattered by giving out trendy awards to people like Gwyneth Paltrow or Jamie Foxx - or one too many to average bores like Tom Hanks or Hillary Swank. I give you Cutter's Way, Tucker: A Man and His Dream, The Fabulous Baker Boys, The Fisher King, Fearless and The Big Lebowski - par exemple in Mr. Bridges case.
The rule is that it's a very good performance by a seasoned veteran that typically transcends the material surrounding it. Crazy Heart is no exception. It's a ringer for this movie operandi.
But it did not need to be that way. Nearly two-thirds of Crazy Heart cruises right along as a raw character study of a dying and dissatisfied man - country singer "Bad" Blake (Bridges). He once had a small taste of the big time but the gigs are getting seedier, more depressing and downright embarrassing. He's fifty-seven years old, has a serious drinking problem, four ex-wives, oncoming emphysema and a career in the toilet. He hasn't written a song in three years and is now headlining bowling alleys which he must drive hundreds of miles across the southwest to get to in his '78 Suburban. We see him emptying his milk gallon jug of piss upon arrival at the opening gig. His former guitarist is now a mega-millionaire country star while he is condemned to stay in shitty hotels and fuck ugly, rube groupies. This all makes for some fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpses of life as a third rate, failing musician and a miserable human being.
Then Maggie Gyllenhaal shows up with her kid and spoils the whole fucking thing.
Let me clear the foul air that surrounds my opinion of Maggie. I think she's a talented actress. I generally like the quirkiness she brings to her characters and appreciate the artistic career choices she makes. I will not tolerate, however, this seeming need to place her into roles where she is even remotely supposed to represent an ideal of feminine beauty. Maggie Gyllenhaal is never the hottest, most desirable woman in the room as Hollywood would have you believe. Maggie Gyllenhaal only becomes the prettiest woman in the room when all the other women and the transsexuals have left that room. She is not a sex symbol. She does not have an indefinable attractiveness about her. She should not play leading ladies that are demarcated by their siren-like ability to lure men into lust or ruin. And she is certainly not someone that men who have had numerous lovers (or an ounce of discernment about them) would find remotely "hot". She looks like a chick from a Phish/Dead show parking lot.
Let me put it this way, if Maggie Gyllenhaal came up to me in a grocery store and said she wanted to fuck my brains out, I would ask her for money, perhaps offer some cosmetic tips and then call for security.
And I am a fame whore!
Ah, enough about that. Sorry, Maggie. You're talented and all. Sorry, Sarsgaard, I just don't see it. Maybe people with consecutive "a's" in their names are obligated to be together. I'm not sure.
But what is painfully obvious is that the introduction of Maggie's "reporter" character and the ensuing love story (preposterously whirlwind) that emerges from the once gritty picture becomes its undoing. Clichés begin to arise where before they were avoided or twisted. A miscast Colin Farrell enters as an ersatz Keith Urban/Tim McGraw bland-ass contemporary star; a neglected avenue of classic vs. pop country music that should have been explored deeper. Puns and allusions start getting a little too cute using Bad's name. A man on a direct, unconcerned path to self-destruction begins to find meaning in the love of a little boy and the son he never ...
Blah, blah, blahbity, blah. Fuck you and the plot contrivance #147 you rode in on. I was actually enjoying myself.
Crazy Heart is this year's The Wrestler. A grand performance pocketed in a flawed film about an aging entertainer with health and drug issues trying vainly to recapture his past. Problem with Crazy Heart is - the filmmakers let the obviously doomed son-of-a-bitch get away with it. And, unfortunately, like most adherents to test audience results and feel-good endings, they were rewarded handsomely for their surrender to mediocrity.