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.