I went to see Crazy Heart last night and was not disappointed. It is a good, unaffected movie that provides satisfying pleasures, notably getting to watch Jeff Bridges in the lead role. He’s a great American actor and he’s in top form here. It is a story that we’ve seen countless times–it made me think of the Verdict and the Wrestler, but without the tension–but while it is familiar it doesn’t feel stale. It also isn’t self-consciously “small.” The tone feels spot-on (and so does the music), slack, just like Bad Blake (Bridges).
The photography is excellent, and the director, Scott Cooper, cuts between tight shots of Bridges on stage–you feel as if you are in his whiskers–and long shots of the big open sky in the southwest. Bridges carries the movie with grace. He doesn’t make a false step, and the supporting cast of Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell and Robert Duvall are outstanding too. I don’t think Gyllenhaal has ever been lovelier–she’s radiant. She comes to interview Bad Blake in his hotel room and he says something about how she makes the rest of the room look ugly, and he’s right. She blushes and he says he can’t remember the last time he’d seen somebody blush and that feels so right too.
Farrell plays Bridges’ former protoge who is now a big star. The filmmakers and Farrell display admirable restraint in his scenes which would have been easy to turn into a satire. He plays a cheese-ball pop singer and he sounds like one too, but he isn’t ridiculed for it, lending his scenes on stage with Bridges depth and subtlety. Actually, that is what the movie really offers, some nice, subtle moments. Actors at the top of their game, working together, nothing showy. Duvall shows up half-way through and threatens to ruin the continuity because he’s “Robert Duvall.” But he slides right into the story, and he’s crackles. His scenes with Bridges are wonderful, especially the one where they go fishing together (I love the camera move in that scene as well).
The ending doesn’t really work, but it didn’t disturb my enjoyment much. The pleasures this movie offers might be humble but they are sustaining.