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Friday, Jan. 22, 2010

Crazy Heart

Jeff Bridges dominates as outlaw country singer

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The romance of being a bad-to-the-bone rambling man had long since faded into a drab routine for the ’70s-era outlaw country singer called Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges). When we first meet him in Crazy Heart, Blake is 57 and broke; he drinks whiskey like water and smokes like a dirty fireplace. Driving himself in a ’78 Silverado, he pulls into another desolate town for a bowling-alley gig he can barely finish, disappearing during one of his biggest hits to throw up in the alley out back. The anonymous pickup band carries the tune in his absence.

The road is only leading downhill until Blake meets the woman he hopes will save him, and gets a leg up from the country superstar who got started in his band.

Based on the novel by Thomas Cobb and directed and scripted by Scott Cooper, a newcomer with an eye for the natural beauty of the film’s Southwest setting, Crazy Heart is the story of a rolling stone on a lost highway, a talented singer-songwriter paying the price for living out the lyrics of his own songs.

Interviewed by a small-town reporter with a fetching smile, Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal), Blake refuses to discuss his broken marriages or his broken relationship with Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), the singer he launched into stardom. Soon enough he falls in love with Jean, played by Gyllenhaal like a coy ray of sunshine, and is offered the opening slot in an arena show by his one-time protégé. The road to happiness, however, won’t run in a straight line for Blake.

Supported by a capable cast (with Robert Duvall as Blake’s fishing buddy), a solid screenplay and a batch of good songs by T-Bone Burnett, Bridges dominates Crazy Heart both as actor and singer. He portrays Blake as a wiry old rooster, tired but too tough and shortsighted to stop his life from going off the road and into the ditch. Despite moments of dry comedy, Crazy Heart is a redemption story that argues convincingly—by narrowly sidestepping the Hollywood clichés—that even the crustiest soul can be warmed by the light of people who care.
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