Friday, February 26, 2010

Crazy Heart

A group of us saw this movie last Saturday night, and the reactions were decidedly mixed. No one hated it, but feelings ranged from "meh," to "I didn't believe the redemption," to "I quite liked it." I was the one with the last reaction; I very much enjoyed it. Since the film ended, I've been thinking about why the reactions were so mixed and, in many ways, so muted.

One factor has to be the plot, which we've all seen many times. It was also a great deal in basic shape--but not conclusion--like last year's The Wrestler, another film about a broken-down man who gets a shot at redemption.

Another factor is the sheer discomfort the film makes you feel. Watching an alcoholic destroy himself and put innocents at risk is generally not a pleasant experience.

At the same time, the movie entices you with its music, its cast, and most of all, Jeff Bridges. The songs are country blues, and they're strong tunes. The cast members all deliver the goods. Maggie Gyllenhaal was charming, sexy, smart, and yet damaged enough to make her character and her actions believable. Colin Farrell was, to my surprise, absolutely wonderful in his role as the former sideman who'd made it big. The always great Robert Duvall did his usual wonderful job with a small part.

Jeff Bridges, though, was the star and the main reason to watch and everything you've read that he was. He deserves every award he's won for this performance, and if he doesn't take home an Oscar, the Academy has gone blind and dumb. He vanished into the role, as he so often does, but this time the character was on the screen almost every shot and so strong a personality that a single misstep would have looked as out of place as a porn film at a prayer meeting.

I definitely recommend this film. If you go just to see Bridges, fine; that's reason enough. I feel, though, that there's a lot more waiting for you than that.

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