MOVIE REVIEW-No <i>Mercies: Crazy Heart </i>doesn't quite measure up


There's no reason there shouldn't be as many movies about washed-up, alcoholic country singers as there are washed-up, alcoholic country singers, but Crazy Heart is too much like Tender Mercies for comfort, especially since Tender Mercies was better.

Then again, if they're going to remake every stupid horror movie from the 1980s, why shouldn't they remake a good musical drama?

Crazy Heart is not a remake, though. The screenplay by producer-director Scott Cooper is based on a novel by Thomas Cobb and just coincidentally revolves around an entertainer who's hit bottom but is redeemed by the love of a younger woman with a son.

Everyone, from Jeff Bridges' lead performance to the songs by T Bone Burnett and others, including the late Stephen Bruton, is good, but not as good as their counterparts in Tender Mercies. That film's star, Robert Duvall, plays a supporting role here.

Bridges, looking a lot like Kris Kristofferson, is technically amazing, underplaying endless variations of drinking, smoking, getting drunk, throwing up, falling down and passing out, and going on stage to perform in various stages of non-sobriety. His character, Bad Blake is 57. He was big enough, long enough that he can still get away with murder, but he's reduced to performing in saloons and bowling alleys.

A sore point is that Bad taught the current Nashville sensation, Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), everything he knows; and now the best gig Bad can get, when he can get it, is opening for Tommy in a major venue. Tommy begs Bad to write some new songs for him, but Bad resists, even though he needs the easy money.

In Santa Fe a piano player asks Bad if he'll sit down for an interview with his niece, Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a young journalist. Soon he's spending all the time he can with Jean and her four-year-old son, Buddy. She goes into the relationship with her eyes open, asking only that Bad not drink in front of the boy.

Neither love nor a doctor's warning that he's killing himself can slow the man's self-destructiveness as he goes from Bad to worse, until a climactic event serves as a wake-up call.

Crazy Heart lopes along like a country ballad. Bad is generally likable– as long as he's on screen, not sitting next to you. Sometimes you can laugh at him, sometimes you feel sorry for him, and sometimes you get disgusted with him, thinking he was named for his behavior.

Bridges has left George Clooney in his dust in the race for the Best Actor Oscar, winning the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards, among others. There are performances I would rather have seen him honored for, but he's long overdue and I don't begrudge him the recognition.

The new songs are mostly "rode hard and hung up wet" ballads that probably could be hits if the right artist recorded them, but you're unlikely to remember any but the oft-repeated "The Weary Kind" when the movie's over.

Crazy Heart, too, is not likely to leave a lasting impression, although it passes the time agreeably enough while you're watching it.



What an excellent review! I saw Tender Mercies and did not see Crazy Heart (and won't) but even the trailers seemed somehow derivative to me. (I am rather particular about redundancy in my movie plots.) Movies have become more about making money and winning awards and less about excellent entertaining and original writing. When did the Oscar start going to people who "have never won" and who are "long overdue"? Or has it always been like that? If so, then the whole system is corrupt. I won't be watching this year...Sandra Bullock vs. Meryl Streep? Please! and Bullock is favored to win (bookies are laying odds in her favor as I write!) Why do actors have to "campaign" for these awards, as I keep hearing? and how do they do that although I am not sure I want to know. If I were an actor I would refuse to play this game. But as long as people make movies like Avatar and Blind Side money makers, the beast will continue to thrive. We have become a nation without discernment and taste. If anyone doubts it, the award season thus far is ample proof. How do two separate bodies of voters (seemingly disparate) come up with a (nearly) identical winners list?! The Oscars will be the same. Next year, we can pick the winners based on who has been around the longest and not won, whose movie has made the most money and who looks like their on death’s door and thereby deserves a life achievement award. I thought actors were artists and weren’t subject to the same bs as the rest of the world. Watching this year’s award season has proven me wrong.

Just saw Tender Mercies again after watching Crazy Heart.I felt manipulated by C.H.,it caters to every demographic with an eye constantly on ticket sales over an honestly told story. It pulls its punches on the condition modern county music and the depravity of its leading character(he hooks up with a Hollywood Starlet way too fast). Making his redemption meaningless. Mr.Bridges' people spent to much time protecting his image and, I assume, his points package to effectively tell a story.
T.M seems way less manipulative.From a BALD leading man(impossible in this day and age),to not trying to cater to every demographic in marketplace(C.H.glamorizing the big country music machine,a concession you don't want to offend),to the obligitory gorgeous leading lady.I'm tired I'm out.

I thought "Tender Mercies" was better too, and also thought "Crazy Heart" was a little manipulative, but Jeff Bridges was great nevertheless. His character was very believable and, if he wins the Oscar, he deserves it ... even if voters give it to him because he hasn't won yet. I agree with T.W.I.M.C.'s comment that you wouldn't have a bald leading man today -- but disagree with the comment about the "obligatory gorgeous leading lady." While Maggie Gyllenhaal is becautiful and a wonderful actress (I've never thought she was anything but good in any of her movies), Tess Harper in "Tender Mercies" was extremel beautiful but seemed much less coy and down to earth. In other words, she was also a "gorgeous leading lady," but may have simply felt more like the rest of us. All in all, "Crazy Heart" is worth seeing, but, as with most films where it doesn't quite pay off, it's the writing that's the problem. When are good writers in Hollywood going to get the recognition they deserve? Everything follows from the writing.

I went and re-watched TENDER MERCIES after seeing CRAZY HEART and it's the hands down better of the two films. It's got such a simple, direct, honest quality that CH never has even though it wants to.

The films are just too similar to one another and there's no way I can believe that the people behind CH weren't extremely influenced by TM--so influenced they just grabbed giant handfuls of the story and used it for their film. Lazy, lazy, lazy.