Crazy Heart (2009) Dir. Scott Cooper
This is a country version of “The Wrestler.”
The story follows an old legend of country music Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges). It’s a typical from-riches-to-rags example: Bad used to be a big star, an accomplished musician. A lot of other musicians looked up to him. Now, his 5 minutes of fame are over. As his nickname suggests he’s far from a nice guy; instead, he’s a broke drunkard, who has wasted all his money on his favorite Whiskey McClure. Then, everything changes the moment two people enter his life: a young journalist Jane (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and her 4-year-old son Buddy (Jack Nation). They enter his life and his heart very naturally and gently, and they change him. Bad starts writing music again, faces his ex-protégé Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), and confronts his most terrifying demon — alcohol.
Bad is the kind of guy you ignore passing him in the street — scruffy clothes, unkempt hair, the stench of alcohol and what-not. But behind his sad eyes and deep voice, Jeff Bridges finds a sensitive, sympathetic person who (as cliché as it may sound) wants to love and be loved. There’s a striking difference between Bad the alcoholic and Bad the performer. Unfortunately, the alcohol takes over and drags Bad down. Finally, shaken by an incident with Buddy, he wakes up from alcoholic and mental stupor and finds strength to go to rehab. Bridges is amazing in showing us his struggle between the addiction and the feeling he has for Jane and Buddy.
As for Jane, she’s an incredibly sensitive woman. It’d seem that being an independent woman that she is would make her tough. Yet, she’s not. The baggage of past relationships and being a single mom is there, and is already heavy even before she meets Bad. Maggie Gyllenhaal shows us a woman who is fragile and easy to be hurt; but, at the same time, a woman who falls in love with the wrong guy and is ready to risk a relationship with him. Gyllenhaal’s emotional depth is touching. She carries her character with subtlety, unfolding before us a range of emotions from curiosity to sympathy, from love to anger.
One more element in the story is the rivalry between Bad Blake and Tommy Sweet. As we find out, Tommy used to be Blake’s protégé, and a member of his band. Blake taught him everything about the music and the industry. Then, Tommy became a star. Blake feels embittered because of that. He sees that he’s become a washed-up legend, whereas Tommy’s become a star taking over Blake’s position in the business. Tommy may seem like he’s the real bad guy, but the moment we meet him we see it’s only Bad’s perspective. Tommy’s talent and emotional involvement in the music he’s performing wins us over. He appreciates Blake’s compositions and his great talent. With all that said, one of the last scenes, the scene with the song “The Weary Kind,” has a huge emotional charge: two musicians connected by one song, as if this song connects the past represented by Blake and the present by Tommy. Music conquers all.
Last but not least, I’d like to go back to the first sentence of the review. It’s hard to deny that “Crazy Heart” is another version of “The Wrestler.” The similarities in the plot and the characters are striking. As for the differences, it’s the direction and the way the emotions are presented. “Crazy heart” lacks “The Wrestler’s” emotional depth, the depth we may relate to, the depth that becomes your own. Blake is pictured to be more detached from the reality than Randy — “The Wrestler” reflects reality in a way we can’t deny, whereas “Crazy Heart” watches like a movie, not like life (if you want to know what I mean, I encourage you to read my review of “The Wrestler”) . Obviously, it’s a very good movie, yes, yet the one I can’t believe in as much as I believe in “The Wrestler.”
Long days, pleasant nights,