Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Crazy Heart (2009)

MILFs go nuts for aging country singers.

My favorite movies from Oscar season are the ones that earn acting nominations and awards for their stars. Sometimes those films score Best Picture nominations too, Up in the Air for example, but often times they remain under-appreciated gems because their lead steals the show. Last year, The Wrestler was the movie that didn't get a fair shake, and I was hoping that Crazy Heart, seeing as Jeff Bridges actually won for his work, would impress me in the same way. Unfortunately, the film didn't live up to my expectations and I found myself wading through a fairly unremarkable movie. 

Bad Blake, nope not making up that cliche country stage name, is struggling. The aging, alcoholic singer, played by Jeff Daniels, is stuck playing crappy gigs at tiny venues and only screwing second string MILFs. Lucky for him, he taught a flamboyant young country singer named Tommy Sweet, Colin Ferrell, everything he knows. At one of Bad's shows, he meets a top tier MILF, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, and falls all kinds of in love with her. Things start to go well as Tommy opens some doors for Bad, and his love for Gyllenhall grows, but, unfortunately, he misplaces her son while at a bar and things don't go so well after that. Crazy Heart managed to pick up Academy Awards for Bridges as an actor and for Best Original Song. It also scored Gyllenhaal a nomination. The movie garnered mild critical and public acclaim, but will really only persist because of Bridges performance and Oscar win.

The draw of Crazy Heart is pretty obvious. Jeff Bridges is an extremely likable fellow and he puts on an excellent performance here. Coupled with the musical elements of the movie and a surprisingly good performance by Maggie Gyllenhaal, the movie seemed on track to be a sleeper hit. The problem is that there isn't all that much to see here. Crazy Heart is basically the story of a lifetime alcoholic getting clean, but it doesn't really have the drama it needs to keep it interesting. The whole film feels rather muted and tame. The characters are supposed to be the driving factor here, but their relationships are never all that compelling. With the exception of the relationship between Bridges and Gyllenhaal, the characters in the movie have seemingly simple and straight forward relationships. This leaves little room for drama or progression in the characters and the result is a fairly uninteresting film. The movie earns points for looking and feeling really natural, but a little heightened drama would have made things a lot more compelling. In the end, I respect the film for not compromising it's original story and for making some tough narrative decisions, but that doesn't make up for the fact that it's, generally, not very interesting to watch.

Character driven dramas need a lot more than what Crazy Hear offers to be noteworthy. Even the best performances need support from the script, the supporting actors and every other element of the production. Crazy Heart has some decent supporting performances, but the script fails to carry it's weight and the movie suffers. The movie isn't bad, it's just not memorable. A movie featuring the Best Actor winner seemed to be a shoe-in for a Best Picture nominee, considering there were ten of them, but it's no surprise that Crazy Heart didn't make a showing there. Bridges certainly puts on a show, but I'm not sure it's one worth going out of your way to see.


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