Jeff Bridges and my Crazy Heart Letdown

If you love The Big Lebowski, you love Jeff Bridges. I first saw him in The Fisher King, and holy crap, he played the SERIOUS character, even though I now think he’s a comic genius. Then, came the classic Lebowski—a movie I’ve seen a million times, that I watch whenever life feels heavy. (I follow up the experience by calling everyone “Dude” for about twenty-four hours.) I wanted to see his newest release, Crazy Heart, ever since stumbling upon it at Blockbuster.

Crazy Heart is the story of Bad Blake, a washed-up country star with bad health and an even worse marriage record. His career is basically over. He’s playing bowling alleys when we first meet the guy—sleeping with unattractive older women, who remember him from his glory days. His protégé, Tommy Sweet (played by a cowboy-booted Colin Farrell) has hit the big time, and we get the feeling Bad hates Tommy for it. Next arrives a reporter, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, who becomes a muse for the alcoholic music man. Will Bad Blake be saved, or will he end up comatose in a hospital by the end of the movie?

Okay, yeah, it’s a predictable plotline. Okay, it’s a REALLY predictable plotline. But Crazy Heart does have some crazy good music. The actors really do sing—Bridges and Farrell have high-quality voices, honestly. They’re two dudes I wouldn’t mind listening to in a smoky bar. The songs themselves are also excellent. T-Bone Burnett (I know him from O Brother Where Art Thou?) is one of the featured writers, and he won an Oscar for his work on this movie. My personal favorite: “Hold On You,” performed by Jeff Bridges.

The acting is subpar, which is shocking when you consider Bridges won the Best Actor Oscar for this movie, and Gyllenhaal was nominated. It’s not like The Wrestler, about the washed-up athlete played by Mickey Rourke (who was nominated for the Oscar and should have won). I love The Wrestler because of its grit. It’s not a happy movie. It’s violent and nasty, and redemption is not how Disney would have made it. In comparison, Crazy Heart is weak. Everything we see is too easy. The plotline is obvious. The characters are shallow, even though there was opportunity for development. But the music is great, and so are the western skylines. So I guess if you want some good tunes, watch Crazy Heart. If you want an excellent has-been/salvation movie, though, watch The Wrestler.

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