153 of 161 people found the following review helpful
Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) is a country music "star" whose fame has dimmed down to almost nothing. He's almost always drunk; his "tour" involves him driving himself and his guitar from one really small, cheap venue to another and linking up with a local band who accompany him using cheat sheets. He is disheveled (frankly, he looks like Kris Kristofferson), and even when he showers, he looks like he's in need of a cleaning and a comb. He's had hit songs, and his aging fans (the few who remember him) are enthusiastic about seeing him, and when he can avoid throwing up from drinking, he can still put on a charming concert and usually take some woman back with him to his hotel for some company.
He has hit, quite frankly, just slightly above rock bottom. Yet one day, he grants an interview to a Santa Fe journalist (Maggie Gyllenhaal), and sparks of mutual interest fly between the two almost immediately. The movie then embarks on a somewhat predictable "journey of redemption"...but it has enough things going for it to make this film rise well above the clichés that fill the two paragraphs I've just written.
Bad Blake is hardly a character we've never seen before. But as played by Jeff Bridges, we discover something new about him at every turn. He charms us, and actually makes it easy to see why a much younger woman like Gyllenhaal might find a place in her heart for him. His eagerness to be a positive force in the life of this single mother is an almost palpable thing...and we also get to watch as he derails his own efforts. To say that Bridges gives a "lived in" performance doesn't begin to scratch the surface. Bridges is one of those great actors who has no vanity and no problem disappearing into his roles. It helps that he sings the terrific songs that were written for him, so that we get a genuine sense of Blake as a performer. We are able to see not only the worthwhile man behind the booze and dirty clothes, but the charismatic star that once was there and hasn't completely died yet. Bridges gives, simply, the best male performance of 2009.
While Bridges is clearly the single most important reason the film rises above cliché, he is certainly helped by a very nice script, with lots of wry humor and tenderness and anger and anguish. It navigates through the clichés, not by ignoring them, but my giving them enough specificity that they no longer feel unoriginal.
The movie was filmed in New Mexico (my state...as anyone who reads my reviews knows) and the landscape perfectly compliments the tone of the movie. If it had been set in a lusher climate, something would have been lost. There is both the dryness and harshness of the landscape AND the welcome bursts of color...just like Blake has a harshness that is frequently belied by bursts of warmth and feeling.
The movie features fine acting throughout. Gyllenhaal is very good (although I scratch my head a bit over her Oscar nomination...I didn't think she was THAT good), Robert Duval is funny and wise in his small role, and even Colin Farrell shows up as a big country star with a complicated history with Blake. Farrell is not entirely convincing as a country singer...but he pulls of the "star" attitude with ease. I appreciate that he was willing to take this tiny role...in the last couple of years, he has gotten serious about acting again, and has done much to redeem himself in my mind (his work in IN BRUGES was great).
This is a feel good movie that isn't afraid to make us feel a little bad from time to time. But Jeff Bridges makes for the best of guides through this little, heartfelt film...and I highly recommend it for adults. Entertaining, fun, moving and well-crafted.
42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2010
Have you watched the "extra features" yet on the BLU-RAY edition of "CRAZY HEART"? I did so last night with a rental copy ("89 cents, Thursdays only") -- from my neighborhood mom & pop grocery store [which may yet outlive a nearby Blockbuster that wants six Canadian dollars for similar rental.]
As an aside, may I say I'm one of those odd folks who watch ALL the closing credits of movies -- the last guy left in the theatre, watching the credit roll to the bitter end (usually to find out "who wrote that song?") Glad I watched all the "deleted scenes" from this one as they included one that would have been my `favorite scene' (in an otherwise solid, '4-star' film).
I'm thinking too that, from the perspective of any male who ever fathered a child `out of wedlock' -- and didn't get to meet his child for a couple of decades -- the most powerful scene (I believe) was left on the proverbial `cutting-room floor.'
The segment that runs at least seven minutes, opening with the 28-year-old son, whom "Bad" has never met, or even communicated with, returning his call to say, reluctantly, "and only because my wife says I should," that he's agreed to meet with his dad after all. (We don't get to see him in the film.) "I'll be on the next plane," says his gratified father.
Immediately, we see a cab drive up a long gravel driveway to a farm house, where the young man greets his father with distant politeness, and introduces him to his pretty wife. And though she has only a couple of spoken lines, the superb actress (not named, obviously in the closing credits) conveys the most endearing blend of patience and anxious hope -- trying to will this meeting, which she has arranged, into a genuine, heart-to-heart reconciliation: It is not to be.
When things begin to turn sour, she diplomatically exits to the next room, telling "Bad" -- "You could use another beer." The camera intercuts to her face (only twice) as she listens-in on a conversation going all wrong. Her lovely face is SO expressive -- conveying perfectly her misplaced hope for a reconciliation between father and son - a hope crushed within minutes of "Bad's" arrival.
After some cynical parrying -- with Bad's meagre attempts at conversation ("I saved this money clip for you and always meant to give it to you") his son says, in a flat-toned voice that drips contempt,
"You know, since you got here, you haven't asked a single thing about US -- my wife and me," [and that] "you must be the most self-absorbed S.O.B. on the face of this earth."
`Bad' says, "Call me a cab," and gets up to leave; unable to look his son in the eye, he declares in obvious self-pity, "Well, at least I TRIED." And the viewer realizes that self-pity is the ONLY emotion left to this self-absorbed, alcoholic, `has-been.'
It's a scene so poignant (and so real) it reduced this viewer to tears. How can it be left out? Usually scenes are cut if they don't actually advance the plot: But THIS scene (you may agree) is a mini-masterpiece, fleshing out an aspect of "Bad's" character - to make him even more 'three-dimensional.' And since no other reviewer has mentioned it, I thought it was worth pointing out this one "deleted scene." (See if it doesn't speak to your heart!)
Thanks to the screen writer (or the book's author) for composing this `note-perfect' slice of life; thanks as well to the film's director (or producers) for making sure it was included in those 'extra features.'
Winnipeg Manitoba Canada
58 of 61 people found the following review helpful
on February 14, 2010
Nominated for Oscars in the Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best song race Crazy Heart is the character study of a country music legend spiraling down a rabbit hole of alcohol addiction. Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) is a country music legend who's currently down on his luck, forced to play bowling alleys and small bars while his young former protege Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell) plays the big gigs. Constantly drunk, Bad Blake becomes friendly with a single mother, Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who interviews him for a local Arizona newspaper. When things go wrong in their relationship, though, do in part to his alcoholism, Bad Blake re-examines his life and addictions.
Jeff Bridges is a legend. Son of Lloyd Bridges (remember McCroskey from Airplane!: "Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit amphetamines"), Bridges got his start at a young age guesting on many of his father's TV shows when they needed a kid to play a small part. Since then he's been nominated for five Oscars (including his current nomination for Crazy Heart), and has played iconic characters from Kevin Flynn in TRON to The Dude in The Big Lebowski. With the body of work that he's amassed over the years, it's hard to believe that Jeff Bridges calls Bad Blake the role of a lifetime and the work he's most proud of. And considering he's the front runner for the Best Actor race at this year it would seem that it might possibly be his best work, which is really saying something.
Crazy Heart is the type of movie that is really made by it's acting and music choices. It's not the type of movie that makes any huge bold new declarations, or tries to really do anything particularly new, but that's also it's charm. It makes some choices that you don't completely expect, such as you'd think that Bad Blake's animosity toward Tommy Sweet would come from Sweet being a prick, but that's not the case. Also the ending isn't the sweet ending you'd expect from this type of movie either. These changes are refreshing as the movie tries to be it's own movie and not a mix of cliches. What this movie is, is a great character study of a man who used to be great, but has fallen into the mire and is trying to dig his way back out but doesn't know how.
What the movie really comes down to, though, is the acting which can be seen in the nominations it's received. Maggie Gyllenhaal and Jeff Bridges, despite a 28 year difference in age, really show great chemistry on the screen. This is one of the most important part of the movie, because this is what really drives the last act of the movie, and for the last act to be believable, the chemistry has to be believable. Jeff Bridges really steals the show, but I don't think anyone doubted his abilities. Here, though, he truly shines and develops a character that you love even though he's got more than his fare share of faults. I also have to mention Colin Farrell. At first, he didn't seem too believable as a country star, but you really get that impression before you even hear him open his mouth. In the end he makes a serviceable country star, and I think he did extremely well. To add to that he, as well as Jeff Bridges, did his own singing in the movie which thoroughly impressed me as well.
This is another movie that I don't really have anything bad to say about. The acting is amazing, the music is transcendent, and while the movie could have easily succumbed to cliches it avoids them with ease. I think this is what all musical biopics should be about. If you like music biopics, character studies, good music, or simply movies with great acting I highly recommend this movie.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
It's easy to understand how Anthony Hopkins won a Best Acting role for playing Hannibal Lector--that's a mighty big step away from one's core. But to win the Academy Award for playing a low-key role, such as Bad Blake, a washed-out, mostly drunk country singer, is a fine achievement for perennially excellent actor Jeff Bridges in "Crazy Heart." In fact, I suspect he won for a lifetime achievement with this latest role, simply the next in a long line of outstanding acting.
This is a film I wanted to see because of Bridges but dreaded because I know he plays a man who drinks. My father was a drinker. It's not a pretty sight or experience. Instead, I saw a working drunk, a man who could and did work right through his drinking, just as my father did. But the bottom line: working drunk is not living fully. And that's what this movie is about: not living a life fully and directly.
Bridges plays a washed-out (repeated phrase for a purpose) country singer, clinging to a living just enough to get the next bottle for the gig. Just how low has Bad sunk? He drives himself from one bowling alley lounge to bar to truck stop in the hot, arid western states, the heat simply reflecting the unwashed appearance that Bad carries with him, clean or not. That nasty film of drink, smoke, rock-bottom life clings to him, clean or not.
How many years has Bad lived this way? Too many. How many more until he drinks himself to death? In the beginning he wrote songs that paved his way, but that was long ago. Until he has a gig in Sante Fe in a little nightclub where he promised the owner/piano player to allow his niece to interview him. Maggie Gyllenhaall plays Janie, also a drifter through life, at a crossroads, a single mom trying to find her way as a reporter. I was touched by her also perfect performance. For some reason she is attracted to this stinky, sweaty, aging country singer.
The redeeming grace--as there must be one in such a story--comes through Janie's son. Bad really connects with the boy as much as he does with Janie. The horror scene involving the boy displays that award-winning acting by Bridges. Oh my, his facial expressions, his body language made me feel his own terror at what he had done--or not done. What place Bridges had to go in his psyche to find that terror must have given him nightmares!
That point in time changes Bad. For a rare moment in my movie watching history, I found myself not hoping or cheering or wishing for the character, just watching to discover what he would do. That next section of the story, that acting also congealed Bridges's winning performance. It is so perfect.
To his extra credit, Bridges sings. Frankly, he could make a living at it. He sings a number of times. Colin Farrell as Bad's former friend and current nemesis (only in Bad's mind) also sings. It's a country music movie with excellent performances, alone worth the price of your ticket. But to see Jeff Bridges take a simple role of a less-than-admirable man and make the viewer want that man to be better is the real reason to see this film. The singing is just part of that performance.
It's the quiet dramas that reflect life in all its aspects that make us want to continue going to the movies. "Crazy Heart" is one of those quiet dramas of the heart with a touching story and excellent acting. I might even buy the soundtrack!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 20, 2010
One of the true good things to happen this past Oscar night was to see Jeff Bridges win for best actor. He's done a number of great roles and should have been so honored several times in the past. So I was anxious to see if his performance in this week's release of CRAZY HEART was the best he's turned in. The answer lies in personal preferences, but he did do a great job here.
Bridges stars as Bad Blake, a once legendary country star who's seen better days. After years on the road, years of drinking and smoking, years of bad marriages and managers, Blake is doing the only thing he knows how. He travels on his own from town to town playing small locations to make a living. The first of which we see is a bowling alley with a bandstand.
Life on the road has taken its toll on Blake. His health isn't seen as fatal when we first meet him but the excesses he's lived through seem to be catching up with him. Along with those excesses comes a certain amount of stubbornness as Blake continue to turn down attempts by his protégé from years back, Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), to help him by buying new songs from him. Having not written one in 3 years, Blake continues on his downward trail.
And then Blake meets a young woman who comes to interview him after a show. Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal) has seen better days and yet goes through life with a smile on her face. A single mother, Jean is attracted to Blake and the two begin a romance that starts with one night and moves into the possibility of a more permanent arrangement.
When Blake falls asleep at the wheel on his way to visit Jean, she ends up having him stay at her place until he recovers. Before leaving the hospital, Blake's doctor sets the record straight for him: he's an alcoholic, he has emphysema, the possibility of a stroke is there and if he doesn't get his life together he won't be around a lot longer.
Unfortunately Blake doesn't take the doctor's advice. Once he's able, he heads home to heal. But he misses Jean and her little boy Buddy and invites them to his home. Can Blake make the changes necessary in his life to have the family that he longs for but lost so long ago? Or will his desire for drinking and a hard life rule over those dreams?
The movie works well because it doesn't focus totally on the ills that Blake puts himself through. It offers us enough to realize what his problems are without having to dwell on them or on the effects that his alcoholism has on him and his life. Rather than long passages showing us what's going on in his life along these lines, we get small glimpses instead. But these are enough to make their point and allow time to show the other side of Blake as well.
We get to see the side of Blake that wants to make amends for his life. We get to see the side of Blake that shows him wanting to take his life in a new direction but finding that there is no easy route to do so. And we get to see a side of Blake that through all the bluster and talk of being the big time country star, he's still a simple man at heart.
Bridges characterization of Bad Blake gives a depth to the character that some would not have been able to carry off. Blake here is a man that you want to succeed, that you want to see change, that you want to find a better life. At the same time, the story doesn't move in the normal pattern where everything ends hunky dory half way through.
The actors that support Bridges here also turn in great performances. Gyllenhaal offers a subtle approach to her character. She's not the doe eyed fan who is overwhelmed by the star presence of Blake. She's interested in him first as a person she's interviewing as a journalist and only later becomes romantically inclined.
Collin Farrell (who I had no idea was in the film based on trailers and the like) does a great job as Tommy Sweet. The character is one that could have followed directly in the shoes of Blake, but has instead embraced the fame and fortune in an entirely different way.
Both Bridges and Farrell sang themselves as the characters and it adds a nice touch. It's always better to hear the actual actors rather than see them replaced in voice over. It adds a nice touch and both actors do a commendable job here.
CRAZY HEART might appear on the surface to be just another story of a musician who fell from grace or another alcoholic tries to find redemption flick. But it's more than either of those tales. It's the story of a man who has a chance to change his life for reasons he didn't know still existed inside of him. And that makes for a great picture and a performance that is indeed Oscar worthy.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
I know Bad Blake, don't we all know someone like him? Lovable but trouble with a capitol 'T'. You can't really trust him, but you want to.
Jeff Bridges puts his heart and soul into this film, and he becomes Bad. He is so believable that it is difficult not to trust him. He is that lazy, hazy cowboy drinking and singing his way through life, leaving those broken hearts behind. A broken down cowboy, trying to get through life the best he can. He has friends who help him, who are there for him, and that may be his best legacy. He is 57 and was once a big name in the cowboy singing business. Now he goes from joint to joint singing for his supper. He meets a woman almost every night, and leaves her as soon as he can. Until one day, a journalist,Maggie Gyllenhaal, touches his heart, his crazy heart. She has a 4 year old son and even though we hope it works out, we know he will mess it up.
Colin Farrel plays Tommy Sweet, the young singer who has won fame and fortune with Bad's songs, gives him a chance. Both Colin and Jeff sing their own songs and they are true country. This is a film for everyone, has something for everyone- great acting, good singing, love and romance and kids. What could be better, not much.
Highly Recommended. prisrob 04-20-10
The Big Lebowski - 10th Anniversary Edition
A Home at the End of the World
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 2010
Nicely done dramtatic tale of redemption and salvation from a drinking and smoking life on a dusty road filled with meaningless relationships and a generally cantankerous attitude A talented singer begins the road back to living a cleaner and more fulfilling existence after a traumatuic incident and health-related problems that escalate out of control. Shares a strong thematic affiliation with "The Wrestler." Parenthetically, the music in this film sounded a lot better in the theater than the sound on the soundtrack CD and I'm not sure why. Could simply be that I need a new sound system.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 20, 2010
Jeff Bridges gives the perfromance of his career (ranking slightly above his legendary comedic role in The Big Lebowski) as Bad Blake, a washed up country star who finds redemption with the help of a young single mother (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and her four year old son. It's a simple story that we've heard before, but it works thanks to the excellent performaces by both Bridges and Gyllenhaal, who make their characters feel painfully real in terms of the choices they make and the baggage they carry.
Bad Blake is a former country legend who has lost a great deal in his life due to his alcoholism and now finds himself playing gigs at bowling alleys and bars just to make ends meet. All the while he seems to blame others for his own downfall, particularly a young star who started out as a backing member in his former band (Colin Farrell) who he believes shoved him out of the limelight after studying at his feet for years. We quickly learn that Blake's perception of things don't necessarily line up with reality. As the movie progresses it becomes painfully clear that Blake is in the position he is because of his own stubborness and refusal to make changes in his life.
The catalyst for those changes comes when he meets a young reporter (Gyllenhaal) and her son and falls for her. The path that their relationship takes is inevitiable, but necessary since it eventually forces Blake to straighten his life out lest he suffer more losses at his own hands. Again, this is a familiar story but it works since the movie is very low-key and melodrama free. Things move at such a leisurely pace, in fact, that it's a shock when the movie delivers an emotional wallop at the end.
Of course, a lot of the credit must go to Bridges. He fully inhabits this character, making Blake a deeply flawed human being who we can't help but root for, even though he has destroyed his life largely by his own actions. Couple that with some incredible music (which Bridges sings and plays quite impressively) and you have a tough little movie about life, love, loss and the ability to fight through it all and emerge the stronger for it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
As every film lover knows, Jeff Bridges has been putting in great performances for years - but "Crazy Heart" is different. Quietly magnificent throughout the entire movie, he owns the Oscar on this one.
"Bad Blake" is a 57-year old country singer, drunk most of the time and shuffling with a cigarette in his gob towards another small time venue he doesn't care about. As he empties a plastic carton of piss into the parking lot of a bowling alley (having been on the road for hours), he can think about only one thing - not family, not music, not love - but how can he get a bottle of McClure's Whiskey into his liver with only $10 left in his jeans?
Without any new material to make money from, wifeless for the 4th time and with deteriorating health, "Bad" is still a legend among his fans and when he's on stage, him and his beloved songs like "I Don't Know" can still cut it. But the younger bucks have replaced him - especially his despised protégé Tommy Sweet (a brilliantly cast Colin Farrell) who now has 3 huge articulated trucks to haul his equipment from one arena to the next and not a beat-up convertible called 'Bessie'.
Then "Bad" gets a lucky break. He is interviewed by a local Santa Fe journalist Jean Craddock, a divorced Mum in her Thirties with a bubbly 4-year old son Buddy whom she protects from - you guessed it - 'bad' men. Yet despite all her rules, both Jean and her son Buddy fall for the charms of the big kid with the guitar and the ten-gallon hat. And on the story goes, heartbreak to joy, joy to heartbreak and back again...
The support cast are convincingly enamored small town folks - Tom Bower as the store manager and Rick Dial as the local band's piano player. Colin Farrell sings amazingly well too and is a perfect foil for the aging singer (he's also superb in "Ondine"). Significant others shimmy around Bad's constant verbal abuse too - Paul Herman as his long-suffering manager Jack Greene and Robert Duvall as the bar-owner who never seems to give up on "Bad" and is maybe his only real friend (Duvall is still such a great actor at 79).
Although this kind of movie harks back to Duvall's own "Tender Mercies", it feels a lot richer in its details. There's a particularly tough scene where Bad decides to finally call his only son of 28. Bad hasn't seen him since he was 4 years of age - never helped him, never been there for him. There are very few words in the scene, but there's a lot of pain. The grown-up son is not surprisingly unforgiving - especially with his Mom having passed away two years earlier. With the receiver to his ear, there is a look on Bridge's face that is pure destruction - a horrible realization that he has caused agony with his cavalier stay-away life and won't easily get forgiveness for it. In the hands of another actor, there might have been histrionic tears when the call abruptly finishes - but Bridges just does what an alcoholic would do - not mend his ways, but look cravenly at the kitchen for a bottle to get lost in. And on it goes until he finally does something really selfish and stupid in a shopping mall with a boy who now looks at him with affection. It's brilliantly realized stuff, it really is.
Niggles - his recovery is too swift and too painless - alcohol abuse over that length of time is never that easy to shake off, and even though Maggie Gyllenhaal is a magnificent actress, there's a nagging disbelief in the relationship between her character and his - would she really fall for such a car-crash as "Bad Blake". But these are minor points.
"Crazy Heart" (based on the novel by Thomas Cobb) isn't quiet a masterpiece, but its damn close. And while the other actors, the T-Bone Burnette music and Scott Cooper's superb direction all add so much to the film - ultimately it belongs to its leading man. Bridges imbibes it with believability and a soul few actors could even get near.
As Jean asks what is it that makes a great song - Bad answers with the title of this review - "The good ones feel like they've always been there..." You may feel the same about "Crazy Heart".
Put it high on your rental/to buy list.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 24, 2010
This movie held my attention right up until the last fifteen minutes or so and then I felt as though the ending was merely "tacked on" because there was just no other place to go with the story. I love Jeff Bridges and I think he deserved the Academy Award for his portrayal of Bad Blake, a gifted singer and songwriter who hands his life over to a bottle.
The scene in which he is searching frantically for his lady love's little boy is heartwrenching. Listen carefully to Bad Blake's tone; his pleas for help; his heartbreak; the way he says the little boy's name over and over again. This portion of the movie alone is reason for the Oscar.
My crazy heart was a hungry heart as the movie ended because I wanted something to hold onto as the closing credits rolled before me. A promise, perhaps? A glimmer of revived love? A slap in the face or a lingering, long overdue kiss; something - anything! Amazing performance. Luke-warm conclusion.