director: Scott Cooper
writer: Scott Cooper, Thomas Hobb (novel)
starring: Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell, Jack Nation, Robert Duvall
running time: 112 mins
rating: 15

My real name’ll be on my tombstone.
‘Til then I’ll just stay Bad.

Trailers made Crazy Heart look like a country music version of The Wrestler, a first impression that proves entirely accurate. While Bridge’s impeccable turn as Bad Blake may be more understated than Mickey Rourke (and lacking the certain poignance granted by Rourke’s own tumultuous life), both offer similar introspective views of a washed-up professionals trying to rebuild their careers and their lives.

Bad Blake [Jeff Bridges], once a massive country music star, now finds himself playing low key gigs in small town dives while his protégé Tommy Sweet [Colin Farrell] has soared to success. Rundown, broke and alcoholic, Bad stubbornly refuses Tommy’s help, feeling betrayed by the younger star. Ditching his meaningless trysts with older fans after becoming enamoured with a reporter [Maggie Gyllenhaal] and her son, Bad finds something to live for and ultimately inspiration for his songwriting and a reason to clean up his life.

The entire film rests on Bridges’ very capable shoulders, and the veteran actor absolutely embodies Bad Blake. He capable handles the singing role while exhibiting enough charm that we see both the former star and the spark to which a much younger woman would be attracted. The detailed nuance to the performance is impressive, from his resigned gaze and gait to a stumbling alcoholic stupor that never stoops to caricature. There is a wider supporting cast than in The Wrestler, though all are clearly there to support Bridges. Gyllenhaal handles her role as the love interest believably and sympathetically, and Colin Farrell tones down his charm while retaining his star presence. He sings impressively and Sweet’s respect for his mentor is clear.

Crazy Heart may offer little new, but the palpable honest simplicity of Scott Cooper’s directorial debut shines. Accompanied by a stirring country soundtrack, it offers such a strong central performance that one cannot help but be caught up in Bad’s redemptive tale, and it demands to be seen whether or not you are a country music aficionado.

rating: 3/4