Saturday, January 23, 2010

Film Review of "Crazy Heart"

"Pick up your crazy heart and give it one more try..."

I'm not sure how I would feel if I were a reporter and I had to watch an attractive and much younger fellow reporter sleep with the somewhat charming but rather burned out older has-been country singer during her second interview with him. Did I mention she has a four-year-old son?

Okay, let me start again. Imagine a film about a burned out older has-been country singer who finds redemption after meeting a much younger woman who is also the mother of a young son. Oh -- and it has Robert Duvall in it, too. But wasn't that the main plot line of Tender Mercies which starred Duvall as the burnout and Tess Harper as the woman who stops his free fall?

Okay, let me start again. Imagine a film about a burned out older has-been country singer who gets involved with a much younger woman with a son named Buddy with a soundtrack by T-Bone Burnett and, yes, Robert Duvall plays a role in this film, too.

It's kind of hard to imagine the attractive Maggie Gyllenhaal falling for a man who smokes like a chimney, drinks like a fish and somewhat resembles the aged love child of Nick Nolte and The Dude (or, maybe, Kris Kristofferson - you decide). But that's what happens and, dang it, he actually is a likeable sort when he's not clutching a bottle of whiskey or emptying the contents of his stomach into a trash can -- but, I digress...

The fact is that Jeff Bridges does give a whale of a performance in this movie. And the music is really good, even if the mythical "hit" songs are ones we've never heard before as performed by mythical pick up bands (including one called "The Bum Steers"!) who sound amazing with next to no rehearsal time with the star of the show. Yes, there's a lot to like and a lot to swallow in Crazy Heart which manages to treat us to some pretty wonderful New Mexico landscapes along the way. The supporting cast, including Maggie G, all turn in nice performances and, hey, wasn't that piano player guy the radio broadcaster in Duvall's "The Apostle"? And, what can I say (speaking of Duvall): he has been my main man ever since I first saw The Great Santini. Once again, he does not disappoint though the director doesn't give us tons of insight into exactly what is going on in his relationship with Bridges' character.

Still, I am bugged by the reporter who makes and re-makes up what is best for her son as she goes. Grab a babysitter at one a.m.? Sure. Turn the little fella over to her charming but alcoholic lover (who has already rolled his Suburban after a short doze on the blacktop) for the afternoon? Why not? After all, he's a lot of fun and he makes good biscuits. Like Renee Zellwiger in Jerry McGuire, we are once again treated to a mommy who makes grand leaps of faith into a relationship that has huge implications for her little boy while we keep our fingers crossed that everyone will come out alright.

But, by the end of the film, there is redemption. We are informed that the turnaround has taken many months but we see only a fraction of the process. Okay, it's just a movie but, somehow, Duvall's redemption in Tender Mercies made more cinematic sense.

If it sounds like I'm sour on the film, I'm not. I actually enjoyed it. I even thought Colin Farrell pulled off the role of "young buck Country Music star" pretty well -- so well that it was a little hard to understand why Bad (that's the first name of the Bridges character - yep) is so mad at his adoring protege'. But all will be well before the end credits role.

There was a crazy side bar in Crazy Heart about another son -- this one belonging to the has-been singer himself, though he hasn't seen him in 24 years. A phone call is placed. A conversation ensues. You'll have to watch the film and decide for yourself what can be gained from exploring this sub plot.

I guess, in the end, I like Bad Blake enough to want to know more about him and, because the film brought me to that point, I wish it would have helped me understand the man better. Nevertheless, Crazy Heart has some five star performances, some good music and some nice scenary as it takes us to bowling alleys, motels and bars we would otherwise zoom right on by.

And when it is all said and done, The Dude most definitely abides.

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