Saturday, January 23, 2010

"Crazy Heart" - REVIEW

Given the consensuses of this current Oscar season, one would expect the following summary, "Well, anytime there's singing, the screen is on fire, but everything else is a rotten mess", to apply to Rob Marshall's Nine. However, I have to say that it's much more applicable to the Jeff Bridges Oscar vehicle Crazy Heart, whose trailer boasts having Bridges in "the role of a lifetime" (not a quote from a critic; just a statement). Sadly, while The Dude's latest film has a slew of nicely sung music, its story is poorly strung together, giving all of the wrong aspects too much time.
Bridges plays Bad Blake, a top country star on the downward slope of his career; he drinks and smokes constantly, and travels from town to town in a car that should have been sent to the junkyard 10 years ago. While on a stop in Santa Fe, he becomes involved with a reporter (Maggie Gyllenhaal, still forgoing a bra) and her young son, as he slowly comes to realize what he needs to do to get his career (and himself) back on track. If it sounds like Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler, only music-oriented...that's exactly what it is! Yes folks, Scott Cooper's debut film, while certainly not exactly a ripoff (it's based on a novel), is basically a musical version of The Wrestler, and as my intro indicates, I'm not a fan. Really, the biggest problems are the structure and the writing. There's nothing inherently wrong with the dialogue, but the characters are totally overwritten. We know Bad Blake is a drinker and a smoker who appears conflicted over whether he wants to restart his career or just retire, but we never get any insight as to why. There's a mini-subplot about a son he fathered and hasn't seen in two decades, but it's resolved in a single phone call and...yeah...that's it. Then there's the relationship between Blake's former protege Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell, masking his accent perfectly) which obviously turn some wrong turns in years past...but again, we never given information, nor given details with which to draw our own conclusions; their relationship just sits there. And later, when Blake checks himself into rehab, it just happens. We see him at his first meeting, and then it cuts to his friend (Robert Duvall) picking him up as he is released from rehab. GAAAAAH! What is going on here? This has to be some of the weakest time structuring in a movie in a while, and the underwritten roles, and in turn the underwhelming performances, don't make it any better. But what stings the most, has to be the acclaim that this film and Mr. Bridges has picked up. Why aren't more people calling this film out and making a bigger point about its weaknesses? Considering that the writing undermines the central performance, there isn't much to write home about concerning anyone. The only strength the film has are the songs, particularly the original song "The Weary Kind," played over the end and the credits. Those are the moments when the film finds its groove, but with everything else so shoddily put together, you'd be better off just downloading the song from iTunes, as its the only thing about Crazy Heart that deserves any awards recognition.

Grade: C

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