Review: "Crazy Heart"

If one subscribes to the manufactured buzz emanating from Hollywood, Jeff Bridges is due for an Oscar for his “Crazy Heart.” If that is the case, it says very little for Academy Award quality control.

Bridges plays Bad Blake, a has-been country music star who finds himself, at age 57, playing bowling alleys and cheap bars in the American Southwest. Smoking enough cigarettes to keep Philip Morris in the black for a year and drinking a Great Lake’s worth of whiskey, Bad Blake is the ultimate good ol’ boy wreck. Needless to say, a much younger woman sees the diamond in the rough – and, wouldn’t you know it, she is a single mother (and a reporter, to boot!) with an adorable son with whom the honkytonk man bonds. Never mind that Blake has been estranged for 24 years with a 25-year-old son from one of his four failed marriages – even a broken down drunk can find redemption with a woman half his age.

“Crazy Heart” often feels like a half-hearted, half-assed remake of “Tender Mercies” – a point that is amplified with the presence here of “Tender Mercies” star Robert Duvall in a supporting role as a bar owner who pours drinks and advice. Maggie Gyllenhaal tries but fails to fill the role of the smitten wordsmith, while Colin Farrell (of all people) is inexplicably in the mix as Blake’s one-time protege who is now a big music star.

As for Bridges, he falls back on obvious actor tricks – a deep Southern drawl, excessive smoking, lots of squints and grimaces – in lieu of a genuine performance. His unpleasant make-up and grungy costumes gives him the convincing appearance of an aging disaster, but throughout the film it is impossible not to let go of the reality that this is all about Jeff Bridges in acting overdrive.

Director Scott Cooper seems to have made an extra effort to save money on electric bills, since many of the scenes so dimly lit that it seems “Crazy Heart” is supposed to be a movie about nocturnal creatures. All things considered, the film doesn’t deserve to have a light shined its way.

“Crazy Heart”
2009, Rated R, 111 minutes
Directed by Scott Cooper, starring Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal
Released by Fox Searchlight
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