Director:- Scott Cooper
Let me be the first to admit – Jeff Bridges is one of my favourite actors of all time. This guy can seriously act his chops off and put the world to rights in the space of ten words. His cult iconic role in Coens classic ‘The Big Lebowski’ put Bridges well and truly on the map and ushered in a phenomenon of popularity for the character he portrayed – The Dude. Arguably, the ‘coolest’ man ever. Jeff later went on to star in K-PAX with Kevin Spacey, Iron Man and 2010 sequel Tron: Legacy (balls up there I think…)
But yes, it is a one-sided opinion, and I’ve been fairly off the mark with these things before. My only argument for this one in particular? Academy Award. Jeff scooped the best actor award at 2009’s Oscar ceremony, where he was heralded by his peers and mentors. Far fucking out man…
As it’s nearly Oscar time for the last 12 months of cinema, I thought I’d recap the film that gave Jeff the opportunity to win the award. Crazy Heart.
He plays country music legend, Otis ‘Bad’ Blake – For the duration of the film though, he only refers to himself as ‘Bad’, and will be ‘Bad’ til the day he dies – so he says. An audacious method of separating the good side from the ‘bad’ side – See what I did there?
Travelling across the States armed only with his guitar, bottle of whisky and a packet of smokes, Bad performs at downtrodden, beaten bars and bowling alleys to a pack of beer-swilling, slack-jawed fans of yester-year. Bad’s problem (apart from this one), is that he’s on his last legs. After years of smoking and alcohol abuse, he’s pretty much one step from being face down in the dirt – but trucks on to make good on his gig commitment and to bag himself some well-needed cash.
Bad Blake, as a character is a screamingly obvious homage to stars like Kris Kristofferson. Jeff’s natural ability toward the character does make it seem so much more grounded and humble. Almost like watching a biopic or documentary – A whirlwind career turned sour. I found myself very skeptical of how the film would pan out however, questioning whether Crazy Heart would have a bigger payoff from either ending in Blake’s ultimate downfall, or ultimate rebirth. A little disappointed I was with the general ending, but it was one of a few niggling aspects which pinched this film of repeat viewings.
The performance from Maggie Gyllenhaal as journalist/love interest Jean was kind of out of place. Maggie’s a solid actress with a lot of good credits behind her – but her connection with Bridges is slightly…awkward(?) And at sometimes creepy. At times I thought this could be a show of pity toward Blake, a show of empathy. Sure, it looks lovely and full of ‘awwwness’ on screen but you may find yourself peeling back the layers and taking a closer look into her real intentions.
I’ll summarise this fairly rapidly…. Was Crazy Heart a great film? Not really. Was Jeff Bridges deserving of his Oscar? Hell yes.
Although formulaic and little too predictable (yesss) at times, it really wasn’t about the story that made it watchable – it was Bridges’ performance. Bringing such a subtlety of class during the musical numbers, and an eerily disheartening feeling in a deleted scene depicting Blake’s relapse into alcoholism and his unforeseen woes at being rejected by Jean.
With credible support from Robert Duvall, and Colin Farrell (yes, Colin Farrell ain’t too bad at all here). Crazy Heart, although not his best movie to date, definitely Jeff Bridges’ best performance to date. Best watched with a cold beer, and a couple of smokes.
That’s how The Dude abides.