Crazy Heart [Blu-Ray]
Director : Scott Cooper
Screenplay : Scott Cooper (based on the novel by Thomas Cobb)
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 2009
Stars : Jeff Bridges (Bad Blake), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Jean Craddock), Robert Duvall (Wayne), Tom Bower (Bill Wilson), Colin Farrell (Tommy Sweet), James Keane (Manager), William Marquez (Doctor), Ryan Bingham (Tony), Paul Herman (Jack Greene), Rick Dial (Wesley Barnes), Jack Nation (Buddy)
Jeff Bridges has been among the most underappreciated of actors, at least in terms of being showered with awards. Prior to winning the Best Actor Oscar (and just about every other major acting award) for Crazy Heart, he had been nominated four times since his breakthrough role in 1971’s The Last Picture Show, but had never actually been awarded one despite being one of the most profoundly affecting and versatile actors of his generation (seriously--name another actor who is even capable of so completely embodying such disparate characters as Starman’s gentle alien, Texasville’s cynical oil man, and The Big Lebowski’s Dude). It may have been that Bridges was simply too good in all these roles; he disappears so thoroughly into his roles that it’s easy to forget there’s a performance there, that work is being done. He doesn’t leave you with the sense of having watched a great performance. Rather, he does one better by leaving you with the sense that you have just watched a unique character.
That is precisely what he does in Crazy Heart as Bad Blake, a scraggly 57-year-old country-and-western singer/songwriter who makes ends barely meet by tooling around the desert Southwest in his beat-up suburban playing gigs in bars and bowling alleys for an aging crowd who still sees him as the superstar he once was. Clearly a man of great talent and charm, Bad is also a man with great self-destructive tendencies, as he is given to chain-smoking, boozing, and alienating himself from the few remaining people interested in helping him. His life meanders day to day in a drunken haze, and Bridges’ performance is bold and raw (both physically and emotionally), challenging our sympathies by suggesting that Bad is largely responsible for his own downfall. His predicament is sad, but it is also fundamentally embarrassing, as we watch him drunkenly go through the motions for a crowd who genuinely wants to see him, but can’t be anything but disappointed in what he gives them (at one point he has to leave in the middle of his most popular song to vomit in the back alley).
Bad is also a proud man who refuses (or is unable) to recognize just how far his star has fallen (he constantly berates his manager for booking him into such lousy places). We see Bad’s pride at its sharpest when he is offered the opportunity to open for Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), his former protégé who is now an arena-filling superstar in his own right. Bad can’t accept the prospect of warming the stage for someone who learned everything he knows from him, and the set-up suggests that Tommy is an egotistical prima donna not worthy of Bad’s grizzled life experience. As it turns out, Tommy is just like Bad--a hard-working entertainer just trying to make his way in the world--only without the self-destruction. (It is never made explicit, but one wonders if Bad isn’t resistant to working with Tommy because he reminds him so much of himself in his long-gone glory days.)
Crazy Heart is not all downfall, though, as the opening passages are merely the establishing shots of what will ultimately turn into a story of hard-won redemption. Redemption is not an easy or a straight path, and the film takes us through the twists and turns, the ups and downs of Bad’s coming to terms with his failings and finding a way out of the hole into which he has dug himself. The first rays of light in his life (which tends to be shrouded in literal gloom, whether it be the cheap motels in which he stays while on the road or his home in Houston, neither of which ever has an open window shade) come from Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal), an aspiring journalist half his age who wants to write a feature story about Bad when he plays a gig in Santa Fe. It is hard to imagine what, exactly, Jean sees in Bad, except that she has a pattern of choosing the wrong man, which is precisely what Bad is. On the other hand, it is not hard to see what Bad sees in her: not just a pretty, youthful face and vibrant energy, but also her young son Buddy (Jack Nation), who fills the gaping hole in Bad’s heart left by his own failures as a father. Granted, the fading older man finding a spark of life in a radiant younger woman is a worn and frankly tired cliché, but Bridges and Gyllenhaal manage to make it work with genuine affection that is always tempered by the inherent dangers of such a relationship.
Actor-turned-first-time director Scott Cooper adapted Thomas Cobb’s acclaimed 1989 novel, and he shows a good ear for dialogue and a strong sense of how people connect or don’t. Given the character-centered nature of the story, the plot has a rambling and loose vibe, at times veering almost aimlessly onto side streets and threatening to get lost, yet it never quite does. Cooper clearly recognizes that the story is in constant danger of being too much of a downer, so he inflects it with bits of black humor and also lets Bad’s music (composed by Stephen Bruton and T. Bone Burnett) frequently take center stage. Most importantly, though, he allows Bridges to do what he does best in disappearing into a complex character who earns our sympathy the hard way, making his eventual rebirth genuinely moving, even as it denies us the easy resolutions we might have expected in a simpler film.
|Crazy Heart Two-Disc Blu-Ray Set|
|The second disc in this two-disc set contains a downloadable digital copy of the film.|
|Audio||English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround|
|Subtitles||English, French, Spanish|
|Distributor||20th Century Fox Home Entertainment|
|Release Date||April 20, 2010|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|Although it is most often discussed in terms of Jeff Bridges’ Oscar-winning performance (see my own review above), Crazy Heart is a beautifully shot film that looks gorgeous in full 1080p high definition. Barry Markowitz’s superb cinematography captures the grit and grim and dust of a life on the road in small honky tonks and bowling alleys, but also the glorious intensity of desert sunsets and the awesome nature of the open road and empty landscape. The high-def transfer captures all of this with great detail, although it should also be noted that it handles the numerous dark and murky sequences (of which there are many) quite nicely, with plenty of shadow detail and inky blacks and only minimal grain. The excellent DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround soundtrack gives the film’s numerous musical sequences great depth and presence, whether it be Bad playing in the back of a bowling alley or he and Tommy playing a massive open-air arena.|
|I can’t deny that I was a bit disappointed by the general lack of supplements on this Blu-Ray. No audio commentary, no featurettes about the production of the film, not even a theatrical trailer. There is only one featurette titled “Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Robert Duvall on What Brought Them to Crazy Heart,” and it runs barely over three minutes, which gives each actor about a minute to talk about how they came to work on the film. The only other supplement on the disc is a fairly stout collection of nearly half an hour of deleted scenes--“Bad Plays ‘Somebody Else’ In Santa Fe,” “Jean Helps Bad Pack Up,” “Bad Visits Tommy Backstage,” “Bad and Jean in Taos,” “Bad Visits His Son,” “Bad and Jean Talk About her Career,” “Encouragement From Wayne,” and “Bad Relapses--and two alternate music cuts for “I Don’t Know” and “Brand New Angel.”|
Copyright ©2010 James Kendrick
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