— by MARIUSZ ZUBROWSKI —
There is something about the underdog that makes the idea so popular; perhaps it’s because anyone can relate to these world-weary warriors or perhaps it’s just because it makes good cinema.
Last year, “The Wrestler” earned acclaim for Mickey Rourke’s excellent performance, but this year, Scott Cooper’s directorial debut “Crazy Heart” taps into the immense talent of Jeff Bridges in the role of Bad Blake, a broken-down country music legend who has been reduced to playing at bars and bowling alleys.
When Bad Blake isn’t watching Spanish soap operas or getting drunk, he’s salvaging what is left of his career by playing at local gigs. Once a legend, Blake has been forgotten about by anyone besides his loyal fans, whereas his former apprentice is enjoying sweet success.
Luckily for Bad Blake, his life changes when he meets with small-time reporter Jean Craddock, who is played by Maggie Gyllenhaal.
The story is all too familiar, but it manages to feel fresh and that is the mark of a great director. Scott Cooper’s excellent direction and pacing ensure that the film never gets boring or obvious. However, since comparisons to “The Wrestler” are nearly unavoidable, there is one thing that needs to be said, Jeff Bridge’s performance equals if not surpasses Mickey Rourke, and that is a feat in itself.
There are few actors overdue for an Oscar, but Bridges is definitely one of them. It’s a shame that he hasn’t won yet with four nominations under his belt, but this is his year. Bridge pulls all the stops by playing guitar and showcasing his surprisingly good singing, and its obvious that he absorbed himself in the character of Bad Blake, and its these transformations that make cinema great.
Maggie Gyllenhaal, whose character serves as a parallel to Marisa Tomei’s character, Cassidy, in the “The Wrestler” also does a great job playing Bad Blake’s love-interest, though more attention is given to Bridge’s awe-inspiring performance. Colin Farrell also is a pleasant surprise as Blake’s apprentice, Tommy Sweet.
Being a drama about the struggles of being a musician, I’d expect a great soundtrack and “Crazy Heart” delivers. Though I’m not a fan of the country-genre, there is a nice selection of tunes, especially the song “The Weary Kind,” which is the film’s theme song.
It takes talent to mold something as old as the underdog movie and make it new again, and Scott Cooper has this talent. However, these talents are overshadowed by the performance of Jeff Bridges. It is almost a done deal that Bridges will secure this year’s Oscar for Best Actor, or you can expect some of the controversy that occured last year when Sean Penn beat out Mickey Rourke.
“Crazy Heart” is not only a tribute to musicianship, but also to good film making.
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Click here for five clips from “Crazy Heart.”
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