Crazy Heart

Crazy Heart

2010, R, 111 min. Directed by Scott Cooper. Starring Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Duvall, Jack Nation, Ryan Bingham, Colin Farrell.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Jan. 8, 2010

You'd never guess that Crazy Heart is the work of a first-time filmmaker, but it is, and while the story is as old and true as the broken-down country & western balladeer at the heart of it, nearly everything about Cooper's debut feels intimate and immediate and as emotionally raw as every country song that ever mattered. That's due almost entirely to Bridges’ searing and sorrowful turn as the alcohol-basted and nicotine-stained C&W has-been Bad Blake. It's a performance that's magnificent in its road-weariness, and it's a measure of just how truly great an actor Bridges has matured into over the years since he first hit pay dirt in The Last Picture Show almost four decades ago. He's been this brilliant before, but always in exactingly different ways – The Fabulous Baker Boys, The Big Lebowski, and The Fisher King snipe, shuffle, and gallop immediately to mind – and if the four-time Oscar nominee doesn't get the nod this time, well, life's a bitch and someone should write a bluesy, boozy country song about it. Luck is one thing Bad Blake hasn't much left of, though. Paunchy and 57 and looking an awful lot like Kris Kristofferson on a permanent weekend bender, Blake divides his time between playing bowling alley pickup gigs in New Mexico backwaters and keeping himself soused enough to forget both the promise of his past and the downward spiral of his present. His situation changes, possibly for the better, when a semisober show in Santa Fe nets him an interview with a local journalist and single mother (Gyllenhaal) who takes a more-than-professional shine to the old hoss. Then, too, there's the itchy issue of Blake's wounded pride at seeing his onetime protégé, the pseudo-Nashvillian Tommy Sweet (Farrell, who is unbilled), cresting on the same wave of alt.country popularity that Blake long ago lost in the riptide of cheap hooch and cheaper one-night stands. The question then – and it's been answered a million times before, but rarely with such scruffy, exacting eloquence – is who is Bad Blake going to love more: the lady or the tequila? Gyllenhaal, to her credit, nearly matches Bridges in intensity here, although why a pretty young journo like her would ever fall for this rotgut country strummer is a mystery that's never fully addressed or answered. No matter. Backed (and haunted) by a blazingly fine soundtrack courtesy of T Bone Burnett and the late Stephen Bruton and a theme song (and screen appearance) by rising star Ryan Bingham, Bridges makes this sozzled and desperate ex-desperado – a cliché by any other name – as fresh and vital as one final shot at cowboy-poet redemption. It may sound crazy, but it's true. (See "Crossover Artist" for an interview with Ryan Bingham.)

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Crazy Heart
Off the Record
Off the Record
Music News

Austin Powell, March 12, 2010

Crossover Artist
Crossover Artist
Rocker Ryan Bingham on his 'Crazy Heart' acting debut and Golden Globe songwriting nod

Marjorie Baumgarten, Jan. 8, 2010

More Crazy Heart
Off the Record
Off the Record
Music News

Austin Powell, Dec. 18, 2009

More Scott Cooper Films
Hostiles
The closing days of the old West, and the legacy of the Indian Wars, bloodily examined

Richard Whittaker, Jan. 12, 2018

Black Mass
Johnny Depp plays the notorious South Boston crime boss Whitey Bulger

Kimberley Jones, Sept. 18, 2015

More by Marc Savlov
John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
Welcome back, Mister Wick: Everyone's favorite merciless killer gets more human and more intriguing

May 17, 2019

Carmine Street Guitars
Spend time with the quiet artisans who make the instruments that rock & roll is built upon

May 10, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Crazy Heart, Scott Cooper, Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Duvall, Jack Nation, Ryan Bingham, Colin Farrell

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle