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Crazy Heart (2009) Review

I’ve always found it strange as to what exactly hooks me into a film. To be honest after watching so many, you’d really think I’d know what it is by now. What I like and dislike in a film is, I assume, quite simple. Yet I can’t pin it down whatsoever. Possibly one of the main things on the whole is a strong performance from an actor I thoroughly enjoy. Maybe that’s the simple key to getting invested into a film that might be a bit below par, or something that simply wouldn’t work without the star power on offer. Crazy Heart nearly falls into such a category, with the leading performance on offer by Jeff Bridges being my sole reason for having any semblance of interest in this 2009 drama piece.

Bridges delivers his Academy Award winning role with a grace that he has always brought to his screen persona. Alcoholic, long haired, free-loading walk of life men are his forte. He’s played this role before, and the only real change is that he’s saddled with a guitar and has a music career that has grinded to a halt. He’s withering away in the cusp of an alcohol addiction, falling from grace in the shadow of the popular Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell). Bridges’ portrayal of this addiction and the fading country singer Bad Blake is rather resounding. As much a contemplation on falling to the wayside as it is a recovery of tough addiction, Bridges captures the essence required to make this role not only believable, but likeable too. He’s a real talent, and that comes in handy when breaking the mould of what we as an audience may come to expect from a sappy film like this.

Some nice shot composition keeps Crazy Heart from falling into a completely bland and expressionless feature. We have some nice panning shots throughout, a good display of the concerts Bad strums his way through and a focus on the emotive connection he finds with an aspiring journalist, Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Gyllenhaal and Bridges have an engaging chemistry with one another, and thankfully director Scott Cooper is smart enough to focus in on this for more or less the entire film. It’s predictable, sure, but there are a few golden nuggets along the way. It makes the experience feel more and more like I’d found a diamond in the rough.

For a film so focused in on its music, that is unfortunately where the film begins to faulter. It’s by no means bad, and I’m not saying I know the first thing about country music or the genre altogether, but the songs don’t exactly capture the composition of shots nor the depth in the work of Bridges. They’re enjoyable earworms that don’t resonate beyond feeling like they’re coupled with the scene for the sake of it. Thankfully the songs themselves and the dialogue on the whole manage to avoid the pitfalls of predictability, in turn bringing a rather simple script to life with relative ease.

We follow a washed-up singer as he chooses the rocky road of recovery. It’s a concept that I feel has been done so many times before, yet I’d fail to name more than a small handful where I’ve seen it done at all, let alone correctly. Crazy Heart has a comfortable and respectful feeling to it the whole way through, which is surprising given how relatively safe it is overall. A romantic subplot here, a few dishevelled scenes and recovery aspects there, and it all comes together rather well on the whole. Playing it safe isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you’re not in the mood to be challenged by a greater thought process. I wish there were more films like Crazy Heart, but at the same time, I loathe myself for enjoying something so comfortably affectionate and sheltered from risk.

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Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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