Thursday, January 14, 2010

Review: Crazy Heart

I’m one of those smart-asses who, if you ask me if I like country music, answers with, “Yes, but none of that crap they play on the radio these days.”

I grew up in the South, so country music is in my blood. It’s not my genre of choice, true, but I’ll be the last to turn the dial if a good ole tune were to pop up on the radio.

While there is some true blue country out there these days, much of what makes its way to the mainstream can’t be labeled as such. Honkey Tonk Badonkadonk? Are you freaking kidding me? Just shy of pop or rock, ninety percent of this stuff deserves to be listed under its own banner, leaving country to sound the way it’s supposed to.

Now that I’ve preached at you, let’s get down to the business at hand: Crazy Heart.

The story of fictional country legend Bad Blake, Crazy Heart follows this tragic hero into the twilight of his career, drunkenly stumbling to gigs in the back of a bowling alleys and watching as the music he loves gets turned into a mockery of its former self.

Rightfully compared to last year’s The Wrestler, Crazy Heart shows us just how far the mighty can fall and, more importantly, that it’s never too late to claw back out of the much and reclaim something resembling a normal life.

Jeff Bridges is electrifying as Blake, adding this as the largest jewel in his already impressive crown of roles. I hate to say “he was born to play this character,” but it fits in no better place than here.

Helping Blake find his way are longtime friend Wayne (Robert Duvall), protégé turned superstar Tommy Sweet (Collin Farrell) and love interest Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal), all doing a great job in their supporting roles. Gyllenhaal, as a strong, too-many-times-wronged single mother, is particularly noteworthy and impossible to look away from.

As Blake says, country ain’t what it used to be. So it suits, then, that the soundtrack--much of which is sung by Bridges himself--is a bona fide dose of the good stuff.

Crazy Heart is a genuine slice of American history, telling the tale of yesterday’s forgotten heroes and the life our fleeting recognition has left them to lead. A year-in-the-life-of look at a man struggling to find his own brand of salvation, I mark it down as one of the best films of 2009.

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