Crazy Heart makes you feel like you’re in the heart of America, immersed in the country on a Summer evening, kicking back alone or with friends, with a drink in hand and great music on at just at the right level. Let’s go deeper. Boots off, you’re sitting on a wicker chair, perhaps it rocks just a little, and you’re reflecting on the sweet obstacle course of life. Your mind wanders, massaged by the therapy of the evening crickets and the warmth of the setting sun. It strays upon a country singer you used to know… Bad Blake he called himself… and so on. That’s the texture of Crazy Heart. It calmly approaches you from the opening chords and invites you to listen and travel with the at once comforting and bittersweet tale of an ageing talent.
Jeff Bridges portrays Bad Blake with smooth authenticity. In his late fifties, Blake has surrendered his musical success to Tommy Sweet, played by Colin Farrell. Alone, without even a consistent backing band, Blake drinks and smokes his way through a Southwest tour, playing old favourites and afraid to write new ones. His mind and body are damaged and defined by his bad choices – reminiscent of Mickey Rourke’s Randy in The Wrestler, except Blake hasn’t fully resigned himself to redundancy. Married four times, he’s open to love – or women at least – but a young country-loving journalist in the form of Maggie Gyllenhaal renders it possible that this is the first time he’s been consumed by it. Suddenly, change and new territory aren’t so bad.
Bridges delivers his astonishly credible performance with ease, and completing the partnership, Gyllenhaal plays her vulnerability, strength and resolve to perfection. Scott Cooper directs the love, the pain and fear of loss and the lasting optimism beautifully and sincerely – just as the music tells it.