Crazy Heart (2009)

This one is just in time for the Oscars:

To all my hard-livin’ friends in the honkey-tonks and dives, I raise a glass and a review. This next one here was written just for you.

I did everything I could to avoid finding out about what “Crazy Heart” was about. When I had heard Jeff Bridges had given an Oscar-nominated performance, like every other male in the 18-25…ish demographic, I wanted to know what The Dude had done. Or, El Duderino if you’re, well, you know.

What I discovered was nothing less than the dusty jewel of what I can only imagine every country singer wishes to capture in the words and music of the art they perform. This story, this journey of Bad Blake, a man apart, spoke volumes to anyone who has ever called a honkey-tonk dive a home and fifth of the cheapest sour mash whiskey a blanket. This movie empathizes with those who have traded, as the song goes, ”wedding bells for the sound of clinking glass”. This movie hazards an observation of the most talented among us, the artistic undercurrent of those who lived life the hardest and sucked deep at the dusty wind of a spring morning and were chewed up by the demons they made their bets with. These poor trubadors just never took the time to die, roaming the countryside, singing their songs of truth, and love and pain.

“Crazy Heart” takes a strong, hard look at the life of a man lived in regret, seeking some redemption for the mistakes he’s made and some inspiration to harness what he once had into something new. Saturated with whiskey, women, and more talent than any one human deserves, he’s meandering through life, failed marriages and relationships scattering the countryside. His strength is his charm, but so is his weakness. He’s an entertainer, a consummate performer and a tribute to this trade. Even if he does stumble off a stage to puke mid-song.

With a surprising performance from Maggie Gyllenhall, sudden “what the Hell?!” moment(s) from otherwise movie bad boy Colin Ferrel, and an accapella from none other than Robert Duvall, it’s a heart-warming and heart-breaking ride through the life of a man who’s most prized possession is his classic guitars and his ’78 Chevrolet Suburban, ‘Bessie’. Anyone who’s known anybody with too much talent and too much time, with a good heart but an old, sad soul, will understand this movie on a different level.

The added bonus of the movie is Jeff Bridges does all his own singing and playing of the guitar. The same for an aforementioned character. I was actually a little distracted by that question, and it made it all the more powerful when I realized that it truly was Jeff Bridges letting loose on the ballads. The music director and an executive producer on the movie is none other than T-Bone Burnett, the great Nashville record producer (he’s produced many number one hits and was once married to Shania Twain). He wrote and produced almost all the music in the movie, and the quality shows. Bridges lent his voice, and there wasn’t a question to the validity of his ability. The man has chops.

So does this movie.

A. Jeff Bridges delivers with a surprise supporting cast and the heart-breaking truth prevails over any Hollywood dream.

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