“Funny how fallin’ feels like flyin’…for a little while”
Scott Cooper’s Crazy Heart earned Jeff Bridges his first Best Actor Oscar at the 82nd Academy Awards in 2010 for his characterization of Bad Blake – a broken down, alcoholic, has-been, old-school country singer trying to eke out a living playing honky-tonks with local bands backing him up for mostly late middle-aged fans. It was his fifth Acting nomination, second for Best Actor (Starman). The following year, he received his third best Actor Nomination for his brilliant portrayal of Rooster Cogburn in the remake of True Grit. He’s one of the best actors of his generation.
Crazy Heart also won for Best Song – The Weary Kind by Ryan Bingham & T Bone Burnett. In the film, the piece is penned by Bad & sold to Tommy (Colin Farrell, who is fantastic as Bad’s protégé). Tommy is the real McCoy but also symbolizes new country. He’s rich & very famous, and Bad unjustifiably resents this some since Tommy always has Bad’s best interest in mind. Bad believes that writing songs & opening for other artists is selling out, but he agrees to do so for Tommy even though The Weary Kind is one of his best songs: He needs the money! Both actors do all of their own singing in the film.
Bad’s love interest is the much younger reporter, Jean Craddock, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal. Her performance earned her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar Nomination. She has a 4-year-old boy, Buddy: Jack Nation is marvelous in his first role. Bad loves Jean & Buddy – they help him grow & teach him about family. A couple of additional firsts in this great motion picture: Crazy Heart was first & only directorial venture for Scott Cooper (his second movie, Out of the Furnace, is filming now & scheduled for release next year), who also adapted the screenplay from Thomas Cobb’s 1987 novel; and Ryan Bingham made his acting debut as Tony of Tony & the Renegades, Bad’s backup band for the impending gig at the bar in a bowling alley as the movie opens. The band is Ryan’s actual band at the time, Ryan Bingham & the Dead Horses.
Robert Duvall, who coincidentally won his only Best Actor Oscar in 1983 at the 56th Academy Awards as aging country singer Mac Sledge, has a small role as Wayne, Bad’s longtime friend. He helps him in his struggle with alcoholism & we’re left with the impression that he’s been trying to do so for a long time. Bad’s drink of choice is the fictitious McClure’s Kentucky Bourbon. Early in the film, liquor store owner Bill Wilson gives Bad a bottle of it in hopes that he’ll sing one of his hits, I Don’t Know, and dedicate it to his wife Beverly at the show at the bowling alley later that night. The character is so-named in a crafty & cunning homage to Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Bill W[ilson].
Crazy Heart is a joyous film of love found & lost, alcoholism, learning what’s important, getting another chance in life, and aging gracefully. It’s a must see. Bridges hasn’t been better since possibly Starman. And regardless of what you may think about country music, the soundtrack is fantastic. The songs are very accessible. You’ll be humming along with all of them the first time you hear them. “That’s the way it is with good ones. You’re sure you’ve heard them before.”