Mar 222010

I finally got around to seeing Crazy Heart, and oh my! Despite a Herculean effort by Jeff Bridges to overcome the soap operatic acting talents of Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart was about the most pointless movie I’ve seen in a long time. Well, in not too long a time: that Sherlock Holmes movie I saw with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law a couple of months ago really made me question my existence for the 2 hours it ran.

The music scenes in Crazy Heart were good. Bridges actually played and interacted with his fellow musicians in a way that felt real and insightful. The songs helped tell what little story there was to tell. No beefs there!

Bridges was truly fine, but Oscar-winning performance fine? What did he do that the multi-untalented Kris Kristofferson didn’t do in A Star Is Born, for crying out loud? But I’m not here to knock Bridges. The work he did to keep this flat, overtold movie remotely watchable deserved an Oscar. And the Kristofferson comparison was uncalled for. Sorry, I get too much pleasure thinking about a scene from that film with Kristofferson’s character wasted and playing an out-of-tune guitar while seated on a couch.

QUESTION: Why wasn’t the Robert Duvall-produced Crazy Heart simply promoted as a prequel to Tender Mercies, the extraordinary tale of a recovering alcoholic, washed-up country singer trying to make it with a younger, farm-fresh woman and her little boy?

ANSWER after the jump!

ANSWER: Because, as with sequels, audiences are tuned into the fact that prequels usually suck!

Gyllenhaal’s performance was the key to Bridges’ Oscar. I’ve never seen Gyllenhaal in any more than a bit part before, but her scenes in Crazy Heart sag as much as her tank-top encased breasts! All those dramatic eye rolls and tortured neck twists! Those acting tics work like a charm when Barbara Feldon did them as Agent 99 does it in Get Smart, but Gyllenhaal is so far out of her league acting alongside Bridges it’s not funny. It doesn’t help that her part is a poorly conceived device for exposing obvious aspects of Bridges’ character. Considering there are no other substantial characters running through the movie, Bridges carries an acting burden not seen since Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern raised enough hell to give David Lynch‘s otherwise life-squelching Wild at Heart a pulse. At least Cage and Dern got to pull that turd out of the crapper together.

Considering how much I can’t stand artist biopics in which the raging, addicted artist is “loved out of” his issues by a strong woman, it’s to this underwritten film’s credit that the psychological issues were told in a series of flashcards rather than shoved down my throat in countless phony scenes, like that godawful Johnny Cash movie. The scene referring to Bridges’ rehab, for instance, makes Tiger Woods‘ recent rehabilitation stay feel like a life sentence.

Here’s what I kept thinking with each new, paint-by-numbers scene: Are we so out of touch with our own emotional lives and so addicted to voyeuristic quick fixes of the lives of others that all sense of movie craft and commitment to any real emotions are out the window? This isn’t the naturalistic, nonjudgmental, emotionally revealing film-making of a John Cassavettes. This is another redemptive episode of VH1’s Behind the Music crossed with reality TV. It wants to be more, but it commits to nothing – and displays no interesting filmcraft.

This is no Tender Mercies, in terms of subtle storytelling. It’s also no Dumber and Dumberer, in terms of prequels, but come on! For the most part this movie got a free ride. Only real people, real friends, like Townsmen chickenfrank and dbuskirk set me up for what to expect. You guys rock! I’m proud to call you two of my go-to guys for opinions on movies, even if you guys do like those thumb-sucking Wes Anderson movies.



  14 Responses to “Bullshit On: Crazy Heart”

  1. No wonder RTH was denied press credentials to this year’s Oscars.

    It’s telling that after just a couple of months since I saw the movie, I can barely remember any scenes. The only memorable scene was the bowling alley opening, and that’s due to the immediate associations made with The Dude’s bowliing alley scenes! I kept hoping to see Sam Elliott and his outrageous mustache.

  2. mockcarr

    Great, it’s not enough that you are warned off this movie by two friends, but you made me waste three minutes reading this. Did you receive a chain letter from or something?

  3. Mr. Moderator

    Answer the question, mockcarr! Oh, that’s right, there is none.

  4. BigSteve

    I have no interest in seeing this movie. It seems to fall into the “emotionally stunted geezer achieves redemption by falling in love with a woman young enough to be his daughter” category. The music might be decent, but I could hear it without watching this vanity project.

  5. I saw this movie last night, only it was called The Wrestler.

  6. When I saw this movie (and I’ve seen it twice) I wanted to learn Tuvan throat-singing so I could make more than one note, rent one of those digital doohickeys so that I could produce a tone an octave above and below my own voice, and then rent a stadium-sized PA, all the better to more polyphonically and loudly call “BULLSHIT” on this movie.

    Every alcoholic fuckup musician THINKS that his life is going to turn out this way:

    * Careen through life making entertaining little mistakes that get people nose-wrinklingly peeved with you but never really angry to the extent that you actually lose anything.

    * Make one mistake that’s not actually all that harmful in the end, “bottom out” for about two minutes.

    * “Clean up” by spending about 30 seconds staring at a brook.

    (Right here was the part where I really wished this movie was a person so I could punch it: The “16 Months Later …” caption. THAT would have been the interesting part. THAT is the part where you find out what a complete and unrelenting asshole you have been to anyone who ever gave a fuck about you. THAT is the part they never show. Because they go straight to …)

    * Bingo! You write a “great” song (that great song that everyone’s been clamoring for you to write, as opposed to the shitty songs you’ve been turning out that have made everyone give up on you because you ALWAYS get a do-over) and everyone’s OK.

    * Maybe you don’t get the girl back, but still, she ends up OK. Everyone ends up OK.

    * “OK,” of course, is defined as “OK with you.” Because that’s what counts. Because It Is All About You. Because when you strum two chords and hum a melody that you haven’t even fully worked out yet, it makes people cry. Because you are Just That Fucking Special. Which has nothing – oh, no, nothing at all, why would you ever think such a thing? – with the mindset that led you to become a drunk asshole in the first place.

    Yeah, I got issues with this movie.

  7. mockcarr

    Erm, twice? You had to stick your tongue in that cold sore again, to make sure it hadn’t healed?

  8. Mr. Moderator

    Rick, I’m so glad to read about your issues with this movie. I hear you COMPLETELY re: the “16 months later” bit. Doesn’t anyone in Hollywood have the good sense to call bullshit on that lame a move? But what do I know, I’ve never written or starred in a critically acclaimed motion picture.

  9. Excellent description, Rick! Spot on.

    It leads me to two follow up questions:

    Isn’t Crazy Heart just the Dewey Cox, Walk Hard story without the jokes?

    Why is this the only group of people getting this right? I think this was a universally praised movie. Curious.

  10. Isn’t Crazy Heart just the Dewey Cox, Walk Hard story without the jokes?

    I don’t know, because I’ve never seen Dewey Cox, but now I want to, because Crazy Heart could have used some jokes. (Or an ending where it turns out that even though the guy was cleaning himself up, he was dying anyway from the excesses of his hedonistic earlier life. But seeing as how in our culture’s storytelling framework only women die from heedless experimentation with pleasure, you knew that wasn’t going to happen.)

    Why is this the only group of people getting this right? I think this was a universally praised movie. Curious.

    One, it was universally praised but not that strongly. Two, Movie critics don’t know musicians like we do. Three, none of the people I saw it with the second time liked it, although they weren’t as vehement as I was.

    Erm, twice? You had to stick your tongue in that cold sore again, to make sure it hadn’t healed?

    The first time was for work. The second time was in a group situation in which I thought I was maybe being too harsh the first time, so I didn’t kick too much when I was outvoted.

  11. “The second time was in a group situation in which I thought I was maybe being too harsh the first time, so I didn’t kick too much when I was outvoted.”

    Going to the movies is awesome.

    Going to the movies with other people (except for my wife) bites it.

  12. Mr. Moderator

    I finally caught a little bit of Walk Hard and realized it had a MAJOR stumbling block for me to overcome once I finally getting around to seeing it all the way through: it was loaded with all those mediocre Saturday Night Live players from the ’90s. That crew reeks of mediocrity for me! As soon as Tim Meadows, for instance, or just about any of those other candy-asses from that era show up on screen in any movie or tv show I find that the energy takes a major dip. Exceptions to this rule are Will Ferrell and Chris Parnell. If I’m going to see second-rate SNL actors in real movies give me the late Charles Rockett!

  13. I was fully expecting to have the same reaction to Walk Hard as you, Mr. Mod. (You can include all the Apatow Mafia among those whose fame and fortune outdistance their average talents)

    But I laughed a lot despite myself.

    I thought a really funny scene was John Michael Higgins, from all the Christopher Guest movies, recording their first song and giving them just a couple of seconds to convince him of its worth. All the Guest crew that show up bring some decent laughs.

  14. They did a really good job with the multiple styles of the song parodies and the mockery of biopic clichés. I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I do.

    I don’t plan on seeing ‘Crazy Heart’. If I want to see a GOOD movie about a fucked up country musician, I’ll watch ‘Payday’ with Rip Torn again.

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