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CRAZY HEART (director/writer: Scott Cooper; screenwriter: based on the book “Crazy Heart” by Thomas Cobb; cinematographer: Barry Markowitz; editor: Tatiana S Riegel; music: Stephen Bruton/T-Bone Burnett; cast: Maggie Gyllenhaal (Jean Craddock), Jeff Bridges (Bad Blake), Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), Robert Duvall (Wayne Kramer), Rick Dial (Wesley Barnes), Brian Gleason (Steven Reynolds), Sarah Jane Morris (Marissa Reynolds), Paul Hermann (Jack Greene), James Keane (manager), Jack Nation (Buddy Craddock), Ryan Bingham (Tony), Tom Bower (Bill Wilson); Runtime: 112; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Scott Cooper/Robert Duvall/Rob Carliner/Judy Cairo; Fox Searchlight; 2009)
“Entertainingly zips along the desert highways.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Scott Cooper makes his directing debut in this low-budget indie-type of Country and Western musical road tale mostly a good one. It follows along the tracks of Songwriter, Tender Mercies and The Wrestler, if that would have been about a washed-up country singer. It dots its I’s with a country song feel-good ending, as it sweats out a bleak mood throughout. It’s based on the debut book by Thomas Cobb from over twenty years ago, which has been out of print for the last 22 years but because of the movie is now reprinted in paperback. Cooper’s screenplay takes us through a familiar showbiz scene of a boozer C & W singer legend hitting the skids and trying to make a comeback while touring the second-class country bars in a beat up Dodge van. It’s set around a contemporary country music scene in the Southwest. The soap opera story hits a dead-end at times but the moving performance by Jeff Bridges, played in harmony with the full complement of country music and its honky tonk milieu, entertainingly zips along the desert highways and makes us forget its dead spots.

Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) is a down-and-out loner country singer, married several times, with a 28-year-old son he last saw when he was 4. He’s also a depressive, an alcoholic, heavy smoker, in bad shape physically and a fading legendary figure on the country circuit reduced to appearing for peanuts in third-rate venues like a bowling alley in a dusty town in New Mexico. In other words, to say anything bad about Bad would be like kicking someone who is down.

During his stop in Santa Fe, Bad romances the twentysomething local newspaper reporter interviewing him, Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal). She’s a pert divorcee with a four year old son Buddy. During the interview, he only fails to tell her his real name and anything about his relationship with his much younger protege, the current country singing rage Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell).

We follow the cautious romance between Jean and Bad, which has us asking can love change a man and give him a second-lease on life. Meanwhile Bad’s highly emotional manager (James Keane), via long-distance phone, keeps getting him gigs in the Southwest so the downbeat singer can survive. Well, even if things seem the pits for Bad, you’d be foolish to wager against him beating the odds to survive as he’s overwhelmed by the wholesome relationship with the kindly Jean, aided by joining the A. A., gets some help from the friend he was a mentor to and starts to get his creative juices flowing again as he begins to write new songs.

Once slated to be a straight-to-DVD movie, the now theater released Crazy Heart gets over mainly through Bridges’ winsome performance, that it manages to uncork a few fresh things to say while traveling down a familiar road (subtly showing how the country singing scene has grown more sophisticated from previous years), has some nice authentic concert footage and many lively country tunes by a surprisingly relaxed performance from Bridges and Farrell–grandly singing their own songs, if you will.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”