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.