A Bittersweet Country Music Lament
Jeff Bridges has painted his masterpiece. He has done it with a little help from his friends Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell and Robert Duvall.
“It” is a rough, rugged slice of Americana called “Crazy Heart,” written and directed by first-timer Scott Cooper and based on the novel by Thomas Cobb.
Bridges is Bad Blake, a broken down, flabby, alcoholic former country music star living out the dregs of his life in beer-soaked bowling alley bars, crummy clubs and crappy county fairs, perpetually drunk or hung over.
Bad’s diehard fans are aging and impatient for some new material.
The creative well has run dry for Bad, so he drowns his misery in alcohol, knowing full well it is wrecking his health and remaining brain cells.
Into this bleak life ventures Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a Santa Fe journalist who wants to do a “what ever happened to?” story.
The winsome, guileless single mom has brought her 4-year-old son with her, and it shakes Bad out of his alcoholic haze.
Jean must have a thing for losers, because she finds herself attracted to a man old enough to be her father.
Love can be a magical elixir, and crazy as it may be, Jean’s affection for Bad makes him take stock of his situation, with a little help from his longtime friend Wayne, played by Robert Duvall, who also co-produced.
Among the resentments that dog Bad is the fact that Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), a one-time protégé and member of his band, has become a big star in his own right.
In a most magnanimous move, Sweet publicly acknowledges his debt to Bad and even offers him an opening spot on his tour. A duet between Bridges and Farrell, singing harmony in their own less than polished but persuasive voices, is a high point of the film.
Like a country weeper, there must be some bumps in the road. As wary as she is of Bad (he’s been married four times and abandoned his only son when he was only 4), Jean entrusts her boy to him, leading to dramatic complications.
This bittersweet saga is accompanied by a whiskey-soaked soundtrack by T-Bone Burnett and the late Stephen Bruton. The song “The Weary Heart” has already won a Golden Globe and it promises to be a contender at the Oscars.
Ditto Jeff Bridges as Best Actor. Let’s hope this fifth time with be the charm for The Dude.
Oh, and “Crazy Heart” is now back in print after 22 years. That is a good thing.