Crazy Heart: Scott Cooper

09Feb10

by The Great White Gypsy

How in holy, blazing, snowball devouring hell has Jeff Bridges never won an Oscar???
Sorry, I had to get that off my chest. But the question still stands. How does one of the most well-known actors of the last 50 years create iconic character after iconic character and go completely unrewarded? He was The Dude! He was Lightfoot! He was Tucker, the man with the dream! He was Wild Bill! He was Starman! For Christ’s sake, he was Tron! Ok, he wasn’t actually Tron, but Tron didn’t do shit in that movie, it was all fucking Jeff Bridges!!!! And now, he is Bad Blake.
Crazy Heart is the story of Bad Blake, an aging country music star who is obviously past his glory days. He drives his Chevy Silverado all over the Southwest playing in bowling alleys and dive bars just to make a living. He’s an alcoholic chain-smoker with a whiskey bottle full of resentment towards his agent, his protege-turned-rockstar, and himself. Along his travels, he meets a reporter (Maggie Gyllenhaal) doing a story on him, and the two become involved. And true to every country song you’ve ever heard he attempts to quit drinking, keep his woman from leaving, and make sure his truck is running smooth. You should all be ashamed of yourselves…generalizing like that.
For what it was, Crazy Heart was almost technically perfect in its simplicity. Virgin Director Scott Cooper (who also adapted the screenplay) is solid. Cinematographer Barry Markowitz (All the Pretty Horses, Sling Blade) knows how to master a camera without being overbearing. And you can’t go wrong with a score written by T-Bone Burnett (O Brother Where Art Thou?, Walk the Line). The Oscar-nominated song “The Weary Kind” is essentially the culmination of the film. If it hadn’t been sung by Colin Farrell, it might have been better. But when you watch it, you’ll understand why it’s necessary, and it’s really good.
At the risk of sounding like a groupie, Jeff Bridges is the best part of this film. He completely immerses himself in the role. Bad Blake obviously has his vices and flaws, but he is an old school country gentleman: polite, amicable, and charming. Even though you can tell he resents the hell out of playing sets in the asshole of New Mexico, on the outside he’s always a stand up guy. This helps to contrast his downfalls, showing two extreme sides of him. We first see him getting out of his truck after a long drive. He stretches, pours out half a gallon jug of piss (if you’ve ever been on a road trip, you understand this), lights a cigarette, and walks into the bar. From that point on, he’s never more than an arm’s length away from a bottle of whiskey. Perhaps this is why I felt a sense of dread even when he was lying in bed with Maggie Gyllenhaal, or taking her son out to the park.
As amazing as Bridges is, and as much as I love this film, the low point for me is the writing. I know it’s based on the novel by Thomas Cobb (which I haven’t read), but Bad Blake is such an even character throughout that, even though you see his personal developmental rollercoaster, he isn’t contrasted enough by his environment. The things he does, the mistakes he makes, never feel like they deserve the consequences they bring. Maybe this is supposed to make you sympathize more with him – like Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler – but for me it failed. The whole time, I was thinking, “I don’t understand his relationship with this character.” or, “Why is everyone angry? He didn’t really do anything wrong!” Side stories and subplots that could have been woven into the main flow seem to peter out and become irrelevant too quickly, and conflicts that were presented as crucial are underdeveloped and unexplained.
I understand why Crazy Heart wasn’t nominated for Best Picture or Best Screenplay (although with Precious and Avatar in there, it definitely could have been). However, Bad Blake is this year what Randy “The Ram” was last year, and if Bridges is snubbed again, this dude will not abide!
Final Grade: B+

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