Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - April 16, 2010

Ready to rent

Crazy Heart

Fox Home Video DVD & Blu-Ray

1 hour, 52 minutes

Director: Scott Cooper

By Joe Ramirez

The whole reason to watch writer-director Scott Cooper's "Crazy Heart" is not only Jeff Bridge's Academy Award-winning portrayal of alcoholic country singer "Bad" Blake - it is the colicky nuances that Cooper infuses into the movie with Bridges as the boozy keystone. Clearly the director is trying to invoke the spirit of Robert Altman (whose repertoire of actors over the years did not include, I'm very surprised, fellow L.A. flunky Bridges, who seems like Altman's Spirit of '76 doppelganger), whose throbbing neon lit interiors, drab hotels rooms, pre-fab Americana cast of characters are more than a homage to Altman's "Nashville." Like Altman's portraits, at the heart of this "Crazy Heart" is an intimate yet reserved portrayal of a man who has numbed himself against his life to the point where he stopped forgetting why, and Bridges plays Blake wisely as a resigned Buddha of pain, but very humanly living in oblivion.

The first time I remember seeing Jeff Bridges in a movie was the 1976 version of "King Kong" (when I was 4), which I feel incidentally is the spiritual cousin, in a sense, of "Nashville." Both deal, in their own ways, with the death of an era, or at least the realization of the greed at the center of the system. "Nashville" invoked the nastier side of post-hippie hedonism behind the sudden surge of patriotism at the time, while "King Kong" displayed the death of the utopian dream as the wild Kong fell from the Twin Towers. It was Jeff Bridges in his breezy, SoCal manner that out-acted the monkey, of course, and was on par with Jessica Lange as well. Bridges has the knack of taking any role and making it believable due to his low-key, earnest approach. Not to say that he is lazy, he is just talented and intuitive enough to recognize when to crank up the energy. Evidence then and now is when Kong is being gunned down, and Bridges cries out psychically in pain, making us feel that this is the tragedy of the century, big monkey or not.

"Crazy Heart," however, plays its sorrows out in song more than action. We meet "Bad" Blake, a 50ish, Merle Haggardesque country singer who was once packing stadiums but is now playing small bars and bowling alleys due to his drinking. He lives on the road, driving himself across the southwest in a broken down pickup, only stopping at home to pick up his mail. It is journalist Jean (a very good Maggie Gyllenhaal) who asks Blake for an interview after a good night's show, and the two slow burn into a relationship in which she is well aware of who is at the other end.

"Crazy Heart" works in so many ways because Cooper lets his characters wisely drift and change with the tide of time. There are no big revelatory moments, just small ones that add up into something of a shared experience for the audience. I can honestly say that this is one move that lets you live and breathe with the characters, and who wouldn't want to spend time with Bridges and Gyllenhaal? The silent cast also includes music producer T. Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton, whose songs capture the best of a Nashville sound that once prized such hallowed pain and, with Bridges at the microphone, it makes "Bad" Blake's achingly honest and pitiful.

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