Actor Jeff Bridges has played alcoholics (“8 Million Ways to Die”) and broken-down musicians (“The Fabulous Baker Boys”) before. In “Crazy Heart,” he is both, all wrapped up in his portrayal of the fading countrywestern star, Bad Blake.
Having recently won the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Best Acting honors, he obviously knows his territory, which seems well on the road to Oscar. Of course, he’s helped immensely by songwriters T-Bone Burnett and the late Stephen Burton, who composed wonderful original tunes just for Jeff.
When we first see Bad, he seems hardly headed towards winning an Oscar, instead, heading through the rocky cowboy West in his ancient SUV to a bowling alley, where his name is up in little lights.
After emptying his urine receptacle, he enters the bowling alley, sits at the bar, receives a rebuke from the owner for his ever-present cigarette and tries to order a drink. But even that is thwarted because he has no cash and is not allowed to run a tab.
Undeterred in his alcoholism, Bad gets a bottle of free booze from a fan, to whom he promises to sing a favorite song. On stage that evening with a local pickup band, he starts to sing the song, but leaves to throw up, only returns to finish the last verse. The fan is still elated.
Such is the life of the down-and-out country legend, which is much the same as Mickey Rourke’s character in last year’s Oscar nominee, “The Wrestler.”
As in “The Wrestler,” our luckless hero finds true love, which comes close to saving him. Here, she is local journalist, Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who is 30 years his younger, yet manages to ignite the old man in every way.
Other characters who try to help are bartender/friend Wayne (Robert Duvall, who also produced the movie) and Bad protégé Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), now a major country star in his own right. Bad has mixed feelings about Tommy, due to a bit of bruised pride.
Based on an almost forgotten Thomas Cobb, “Crazy Heart is a solid vehicle for Bridges under the sure guidance of actor-turned-filmmaker Scott Cooper.
Go see Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart. You’ll likely see him at Oscar time