At long last, after several nominations, the great Jeff Bridges - one of the very few contemporary film actors who can hold a candle to Mitchum, Lancaster and Cooper and the other `real men` of a past era - got his Oscar. But it could have been for any of at least a half dozen films before this one, such as The Big Lebowski (the Dude abides indeed!) or The Fabulous Baker Boys.
Crazy Heart, about an old time grizzled, alcoholic, but damn good country singer, isn`t a great film ,but it`s a good one, and it`s a delight to watch not only Jeff at his most commanding, but also the impishly likeable Maggie Gyllenhaal, a single mother with a little boy, Buddy, that he runs into on the road and romances. The two of them are fine together, each seeming to lock into each other`s rhythms.
It`s a film with plenty of space in it, in both senses of the word. These are people of usually few words, and this is reflected in the scenes on the road, where you can see the America that inspires some of the songs Bad, and other such country artists, sings.
Bridges drawls a lot of his dialogue (and drunken monologues too, alone in one motel room after another) but when it comes to singing, he`s note perfect. This is one actor who really can cut it. Bridges has been singing and plucking a guitar for years, so it was a matter of time before someone put those talents to good use. He doesn`t disappoint, but he also has the requisite gravitas (he was 60 when he made this) to look, sound, and impress as an elder statesman of country music.
Maggie G is delightful as the woman he falls for, and Colin Farrell has an (uncredited - why?) part as a younger, less weighty singer who used to sing with Bad Blake. He`s excellent, but I wish they`d managed to cajole a real country singer to play the part - one of the slick Nashville upstarts who infest country music these days. I`m sure enough of a fee would have enticed one of them.
Robert Duvall has a cameo as a bartending old buddy of Blake`s, but he looks like he`s strayed in from another film (his own Oscar-winning Tender Mercies, maybe, about an ageing country singer?) and is oddly ineffectual, as if, as a co-producer, he wanted to be in the film somehow but couldn`t quite work out how or why. Still, Duvall is always worth watching, and it`s good to see him with Jeff, two not so very different actors sparring together.
The feel for the ambience of motels, bad food eaten on the hop, ad hoc venues, and the life of an almost past-it singer on the road, is well caught by director Scott Cooper, and the music - well, the music is just great!
How does it all come out in the end? I leave that for you to find out, in your own bitter-sweet way.