VOD film review: Crazy Heart
Ivan Radford | On 06, Oct 2014Reading time: 3 mins
Director: Scott Cooper
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Beth Grant, Colin Farrell, Annie Corley, Sarah Jane Morris, Tom Bower, Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Keane
Watch Crazy Heart online in the UK: Sky Cinema / NOW TV / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
“Funny how falling feels like flying, for a little while…” Ah, good old Country and Western music. Full of old timey cliches, wonky metaphors and steely guitars. But, as familiar as some of the songs sound, they don’t half pack a punch in Crazy Heart. Why? Because this award-winning story of a washed-up musician proves that anything is brilliant if it’s done by Jeff Bridges.
“Bad” Blake (Bridges) is at the bottom end of his career. Once a godfather figure of folk, he spends his time playing in bars at bowling alleys and peeing into a bottle. Accompanied by his beaten-up car and a bottle of whiskey, his life is broken. Run down. His existence sucks. You can tell from the way he still tries to pick up women on his back-end tour of the country. One such woman is journalist Jean (Gyllenhaal), keen to do a profile piece on the man behind the guitar. Picking away at his shabby surface, the single mum ends up in bed with him. Several times.
It’s an implausible relationship, given the paternal ties hovering between them and her young son. Even more strained is the bond between Bad and his former protege, the brilliantly named Tommy Sweet – an unexpected cameo from an impressively muted Colin Farrell. When the two lean against vehicles in a parking lot, chatting amiably in slow, drawn out tones, they appear to reconnect after years of estrangement. Then, at one point during Bad’s supporting stint, Tommy comes out to duet with him on stage. It’s a moment laced with kindness and professional courtesy but also bitter rivalry.
This is what makes Crazy Heart work so well: Bridges, working in a smooth top gear, absolutely nails such moments. From fishing with his buddy (Robert Duvall) to sneaking out of dirty motel rooms, Bridges inhabits Bad Blake completely. He’s incredibly likeable and a talented singer, his dulcet vocals lacing the traditional songs with the kind of poignant immediacy that makes the musical genre so effective.
That’s not to say this isn’t a flawed film. Scott Cooper’s tender screenplay walks the line of sentiment and cliche with only a few new turns. Compare this to the similarly themed The Wrestler, and the differences are striking: Mickey Rourke’s character lived through his career, depending on it for his identity. Here, Bad Blake just likes drinking – a problem which is cured in under 5 minutes. Accompanied by a believable Maggie Gyllenhaal, Bridges overcomes the script’s more contrived scenes with skill and panache.
Much like Cooper’s wide open vistas – impressively shot for a first time director. Under his relaxed but steady tempo, it all comes together with a winning lilt and amiable core. Fused with a genuine love for its music, Crazy Heart’s driving beat soon gets your toes tapping. “That’s the way it is with good ones,” rumbles Blake halfway through a set. “You’re sure you’ve heard them before.”
Crazy Heart is available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW TV, as part of a £11.99 Sky Cinema Month Pass subscription.