Crazy Heart is the film in which Jeff Bridges plays a broken-down, washed-up, boozy country music singer who may or may not be saved by the love of a good woman (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and while I wanted to love this film, and strived to love this film, and hadn’t really contemplated not loving this film — Jeff Bridges; romance; redemption; what’s not to love? — it just didn’t happen. Both Bridges and Gyllenhaal have been Oscar-nominated for their performances, which may prompt you to see it, and while I wouldn’t exactly wish to talk you out of that decision, and can’t be bothered anyhow, you should probably know that their performances are much, much better than this film deserves. This is a story that’s been told a thousand times, sometimes with Kris Kristofferson in it, and sometimes not, and it just doesn’t bring anything new to the party. A fellow reviewer, who should remain nameless but is Christopher Tookey from the Daily Mail — who even has the energy to make up names these days? — commented after the screening that he thought it was ‘The Wrestler, but with country music’ and that kind of says it all. I was minded to steal that line and present it as my own but Mr Tookey is a big man and he also works for a newspaper that may get its own back by showing everyone how fat I look in a bikini. So I thought better of it, in the end.
Bridges plays ‘Bad Blake’, a singer-songwriter who was once a big star but now plays bowling alleys and half-filled bars, and is so boozed-up he can’t last a gig without disappearing off-stage to throw up in some alley. When not performing, he is crossing the country in his old car or living in grotty motels, slumped on the couch, whisky to hand, shirt open, fat, white belly hanging out. Obviously, I don’t mind a fat, white belly — I have one myself — but there may be too much of it. It’s like: OK, we can see Mr Bridges isn’t vain …can he please, please put it away now? Anyway, Bad’s been married four times. He has a 28- year-old son he hasn’t seen for 24 years. His one-time protégé, Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), is now a rich heartthrob superstar. No wonder Bad feels bad. But then Gyllenhaal turns up as Jean Craddock, a journalist and single mom whose super-cute son, Buddy, is four; the same age Bad’s son was when Bad last saw him and which, of course, wakens him up nicely. Jean, we are led to understand, has had her own disappointments, has been hurt and betrayed by men in the past, but her first interview with Bad leads to a second and, before you know it, she is conducting one of those horizontal, in-depth interviews that take place between the sheets. You may well ask what would attract a nice, pretty girl like Jean to an old wreck like Bad, but that’s not the problem. Even when Bad is at his most drunk, obnoxious and destructive, Bridges’ performance is such that you can always sense the vulnerabilities and complexities beneath. The problem is that everything that happens around the relationship is so extremely tiresome and predictable. Jean confesses that Buddy means everything to her, she’d die without him, so when Bad offers to baby-sit for the day, and stops at a bar for a drink …you just know that Bad is going to do bad, don’t you? I would give you another example but if I don’t have the energy to make up names, where would I get the energy for that?
Directed by Scott Cooper, and based on the novel by Thomas Cobb, this isn’t a terrible film and, generally, Bridges is worth seeing whatever, but it’s not going to show you anything the back half of Walk the Line didn’t, or the whole of Tender Mercies. Still, there is a lovely cameo from Robert Duvall as Bad’s friend Wayne, Bridges sings the specially written songs with a nicely soulful, if rather sandpapery, voice and I particularly enjoyed Bad’s time in rehab, if only because it seemed to involve no more than wandering around some verdant garden in a fluffy dressing-gown. See it or don’t see it. I can do no more. Well, I could, but I’m bushed. I don’t think you appreciate just how tiring looking fat in a bikini is.