A Crazy lot of Heart

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.

I can’t Be Kind and won’t Rewind

We’ve seen films about failing independent shops before. So this would have to be extra special if it was going to get away with it. Unfortunately for Be Kind Rewind, it isn’t special and it doesn’t get away with it.

The nostalgia evoked from the footage of real life jazz musician Fats Waller makes for an optimistic beginning. But that ends and the remainder of the long first half I’m solely preoccupied with why director Michel Gondry decided to centre our laughs around two friends making amateur versions of popular films (never mind the baffling power-plant section), rather than focusing the humour on attempts to salvage the floundering video shop. Elroy Fletcher, played by Danny Glover, leaves his shop with his employee while away at Fats Waller’s memorial. Cue Kenan and Kel silliness and much shop wrecking led by Mos Def’s Mike and Jack Black’s Jerry. Jerry is infuriatingly idiotic, while Mike is simply uninteresting. In fact, the film would have been far more successful if it had centred on Elroy completely, an old-school shop-keeper reluctant to move with the times.

If characterisation isn’t the film’s strongest point then what is? The second half proves to be mildly redeeming as the action quickens and has a purpose – to raise money for the renovation of the video store. However, overall Be Kind Rewind lacks the substance that many comedies manage to attain, perhaps because it lacks a strong, consistent narrative. The little depth that is there – the good, vhs old being replaced by the bad and soulless dvd new – is left drowning in triviality.

The film finishes on the warm note on which it began. Forget Rewind, it’s just unfortunate that there’s no Fast-Forward.