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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Bridges Has “”Heart,”” But “”Crazy”” Doesn’t”

    Crazy Heart

    Grade: B

       

    Perhaps the greatest compliment I can bestow on Jeff Bridges’ work as Bad Blake is that I never once wondered why he wasn’t drinking White Russians. An entire generation has known Bridges only as The Dude from the Coens’ cult classic “”The Big Lebowski.”” However, his performance in “”Crazy Heart”” commands further respect and ultimately saves an otherwise forgettable film.

    The movie’s story isn’t bad, it just isn’t involving. Blake is a burnt-out country singer coasting from gig to gig until he falls for Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a single mother writing a story about Blake’s visit to Santa Fe, and decides it’s time to change his ways.

    We’ve all heard that story about a million times, most recently with Mickey Rourke in “”The Wrestler.”” Unfortunately, “”Crazy Heart”” lacks the nuance of Darren Aronofsky’s character study and fails to elicit any emotional dynamism until a heart-wrenching twist in the final third of the film, only to be undone by a staggeringly anticlimactic ending.

    Moreover, much of the first third is numbing exposition, as the movie presents the audience with the repetitive nature of Blake’s life on the road through an array of broad attempts at crude humor that fall flat. There is nothing wrong with a joke about peeing in a water jug, but when it’s the first scene of a movie, the audience doesn’t know whether to laugh at the childish nature of the act, or feel sympathy for Blake’s sordid lifestyle.

    These blemishes hardly matter, though, as the acting is some of the year’s best. Gyllenhaal plays Jean with pensive frailty and a tired vulnerability. Every word uttered to Blake is lined with abject affection — a sort of ceaseless agony connected to her weary past.

    Also of note is Colin Farrell, who impressed me with his brief appearance as Tommy Sweet, Blake’s ex-mentee, now hit recording artist. Farrell showed some impressive acting chops with “”In Bruges,”” but in “”Crazy Heart,”” he’s working with an American accent and singing two songs. The humility and earnestness Farrell brings to the role show tremendous growth in his acting.

    “”Crazy Heart”” is Bridges’ show and he is flawless. Positively stirring in its subtlety, Bridges’ performance captures the layered imperfections of an alcoholic without maudlin histrionics or erratic mood swings. Instead, Bridges brings a casual unrest to the role. We know Blake is teetering on the edge of absolute disrepair, yet he retains a breezy exterior spoiled only by his doleful gaze. Bridges has been fearless with his acting before, but with his performance here, he captures a sense of reckless humanity that overcomes many of the movie’s shortcomings.

    Much will — and should — be made about not only Bridges’ acting, but also his singing and guitar playing. Credit is due to songwriter T-Bone Burnett for penning powerful, old-fashioned country music in the style of Waylon Jennings, though it’s Bridges who sells the merchandise.

    “”Crazy Heart”” is bland and unappealing, its script heavily melodramatic and its pacing drags almost the entire movie. However, you cannot help but be affected by Bridges’ performance. It’s everything good about the craft of acting.

    He still abides.

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