A fantastic review by pjowens75
There is one brief moment in CRAZY HEART, one that has absolutely no bearing on the plot or story, that goes a long way towards explaining just why this simple little movie works so well. It’s a distant shot of Bad Blake and Jean Craddock strolling together across a parking lot, when Bad, naturally and nonchalantly, reaches to put his arm around her waist and she, just as naturally and nonchalantly, brushes it away. It’s an action that could be easily missed, so real but so small. Whether a conscious decision by director Scott Cooper, or the actors’ improvisation, it was an action so simple and believable, that it just belonged.
CRAZY HEART is about Bad Blake, a country singer whose career is in a downward spiral, and who more often plays his one or two hits at bowling alleys and small town bars. His life has become a series of bottles and one night stands, and he is constantly cussing out his agent for not getting him better gigs for more money. Because, after all, he used to BE somebody. As played by Jeff Bridges, Bad is a man who lives life day to day; who deals with life’s hurdles as they come along, not in any extraordinary way or with any sort of gusto, but just as things that need to be taken care of. It’s this matter-of-fact approach that makes Blake so identifiable to us, and I suspect that a lot of men Blake’s age will identify with him and recognize some of Blake in themselves.
There are a couple of plot devices that help move the story along, like an offer to be the opening act for his former protégé Tommy Sweet, played by Colin Farrell, an offer that Bad finds insulting at first, but relents and takes because he needs the money. The few brief scenes between Farrell and Bridges are handled realistically, and they treat each other as old friends, with the mutual respect of days gone by. And although Blake will have none of joining Sweet onstage during a chorus of his current hit, he will hang around unseen in the shadows to watch his protégé perform.
But it is a romance with a much younger Jean Craddock, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, that forces Bad to come to grips with himself, and the fact that he is not the rowdy young star he once was. Gyllenhaal does an admirable job of portraying Jean not as a star struck groupie like most other women who approach Bad, but as a struggling reporter with baggage of her own, who is gradually won over by his charm. You can see the tug of war going on within her as she struggles with the pros and cons of another relationship and the effect it may have on her son.
And on the surface there are many more cons than pros, for Blake spends most of his waking moments inside a bottle. In one scene early in the film, a short of cash Bad is given a bottle of his favorite whiskey by the owner of a liquor store in return for a promise to sing a song for the man’s wife at the show that night. When the time comes, however, Bad dedicates the song but has his band perform it without him as he runs offstage to throw up in an alley trash can. It’s these disappointments that Jean must choose to deal with, or not, because she knows that she can’t count on Bad to deal with them himself. Because Bad is happy the way he is. But there are no histrionics; no scenes filled with a lot of screaming, yelling, or fighting. Just the reality and believability of two people dealing with their feelings the only way they know how.
Jeff Bridges does a remarkable job making Bad Blake a real living and breathing human being. He’s not a hero and he’s not a villain. He’s just a man, going through what all men must at some point in their lives. He makes Bad so real that he’ll have you hanging on every word, either chuckling or wincing as you watch him deal with the results of his own way of life. Bridges shows us the weariness in the eyes of a man whose body is much older than his mind, and the glazed over drunkenness as he falls face down on his bed, never dropping his bottle which he sees as neither friend nor foe but simply as a part of life.
Awards are usually given to actors for playing extraordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. It isn’t very often that an actor gets attention for playing simply a normal man dealing with everyday issues in his own life. I can think of no more capable or deserving an actor than Bridges to pull this off convincingly. Seldom do you see an actor as seemingly comfortable in a part as Bridges is in Bad Blake. Blake isn’t special, he’s just a normal guy like you or me, and it’s Bridges unique brand of magic that makes us cheer on the everyman.
Perhaps therein lies the strength of this film, the fact that we can love Bad or hate him, but in the end, we can’t help but wish him well.