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Drunk ‘n Blue

by Roger Young / 18.02.2010

*spoiler alert
Without Jeff Bridges Crazy Heart would just be another made for late Sunday TV movie about the dangers of alcoholism and country music, with a modicum of resolution. However Bridge’s understated performance adds layers to the story that keep it remarkably true to the novel it was adapted from. Bridges mumbles around in what is, initially, another Oscar bait performance but one that soon transforms into a meditation on frailty not often seen.

Crazy Heart follows washed up, alcoholic, disappointed country music has-been, Bad Blake from bowling alley gig to sleazy hook up, to being recognized by liquor stores clerks, vomiting behind the back of the bar and the miles of road in between. His life ain’t going nowhere, it got there years ago. A call comes from his agent, his protégé Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), now famous, needs new songs but Bad hasn’t written any for ages and besides why should he sell them when he’s been all but forgotten by the guy he taught everything. His protégé doesn’t give up, offering him a slot opening one of his tour dates. But when Blake goes on his thunder is stolen when Tommy steps onto stage to duet with him. In the moment Bad seems pleased, but something about being eclipsed by this kid hurts.

Cuts like a knife

This is Bridges skill, you can feel the pain in the moments that his pride is stung, but the sting is seldom stated or explained, it just sits there under the surface. When Bad Blake falls for Jean Craddock  (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and she returns his advances, it seems like things are finally going right for him, but it turns out that that old country lifestyle isn’t what she wants around her son.

The success of Crazy Heart is in its ambiguities. He gets a well-paid gig, but in someone else’s shadow. He crashes his car but it leads him to stay with Jean and allows them to cement their love. His heart is broken but he regains the ability to write songs again.

The film has some problems too, (*lazy shorthand makes his fight with alcohol quick, painless and fairly meaningless, the scene illustrating insiders knowledge of a sound check is heavy handed, to name but two) but all of them are smoothed over by the understated and powerful performances, even Colin Farrell pulls through,

Bridges makes us understand his reluctance to open for his former protégée and feel the pain of having his frail ballad made country pop, but we also know that he hasn’t been the best man, his apt pay out for seeing the error of his ways is financial comfort but it makes you wonder if he wasn’t better off stumbling from bar to bar singing his pain and being an asshole.

Starring Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell

Written and Directed by Scott Cooper from the novel by Thomas Cobb.

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