Crazy Heart is the same ridiculously predictable ‘heart-warming’ story we’ve seen a million times before, writes Hugh Lilly
In Crazy Heart, which was written, directed and produced by the bit-part TV actor Scott Cooper from the 1987 novel of the same name, Jeff Bridges stars as a down-on-his-luck former ‘real’ country music star subsisting on dive-bar gigs and trying to make a comeback in a world of glitzy New Nashville country-pop. Bridges’ character—the absurdly-named “‘Bad’ Blake,” which sounds more like something out of WWF wrestling than a stage name for a much-loved musician—initially seems likeable, and has some similarities to The Dude from The Big Lebowski: he’s a hard-living, freewheeling alcoholic, and the film opens with him drinking a lot and playing a crappy show in what looks almost like the same bowling alley from the Coens’ film. But you soon lose any compassion for his character when you realise his problems are largely his own fault.
He meets and falls for Maggie Gyllenhaal’s divorcée small-town journalist, who of course has a kid and—of course—convinces Bad to, in Edna Krabappel’s immortal phrase, “straighten up and fly right,” get off the sauce, and reconnect with his own son whom he hasn’t spoken to in decades. This is the essentially the same ‘triumph over adversity’ tale rehashed from so many earlier films—most recently Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler, which is far superior in every respect. Far worse than rehashing this well-trod narrative terrain, though, is the bizarre decision to cast Irish actor Colin Farrell in the ‘young-buck-who-learned-everything-he-knows about-life-from-the-protagonist’ role. It’s not so much that he’s a terrible actor—although he looks far too young to have been on the road with Bad in his glory days—it’s just that almost anyone else would have been better suited to the part. An old-looking Robert Duvall, working hard for his money, shows up as a bartender and one of Bad’s old buddies. Although Bridges seems more invested in his character than most of the other actors—apart from Gyllenhaal, whose force-of-nature emotional outbursts seem to come out of nowhere but are probably built up to and explained in scenes now lying on the cutting-room floor—his performance certainly isn’t one of the best of last year. How this is picking up awards as fast as Avatar is raking in dough is completely beyond this reviewer.