That Jeff Bridges is one of the greatest actors of his generation is not in dispute. But even considering his lofty status, what Bridges accomplishes in “Crazy Heart” is nothing short of remarkable. This is a movie that, with a lesser actor at the helm, could have fallen flat on its face. The story – about a down and out, living day-to-day country singer – is nothing that we haven’t seen before. Don’t get me wrong; the movie’s screenplay has strong elements and it’s well executed – but it’s nothing particularly special. What makes the overall experience special is the performance of Bridges – his acting, his singing, his just being there – a performance that is probably worth three stars just on its own. The thing is, you never get the feeling that Jeff Bridges is acting or playing a character. When the wonderfully named Bad Blake is on screen – well, that’s who you’re seeing, that’s who you’re listening to, that’s who you’re alternately feeling sorry for or cheering on. It’s just a guy named Bad Blake, a guy with a lot of faults who can sing and can write a song as if his life depended on it. And for most of the movie, it does.
Also worthy of mention is Colin Farrell, who turns in a surprisingly believable performance as a country singer himself. The movie should have given him more to do; I would have loved to see a few more scenes that filled in some of the blanks in the relationship between Tommy Sweet, the flavor of the moment, and Bad Blake, the crusty old codger to whom he owes everything. Sweet is smart enough to know that he needs Blake’s songs to put him over the top, but the movie could have done a better job with that relationship. As far as Maggie Gyllenhaal, who plays Bad’s love interest, goes – well, she’s fine, but she’s not much more than that. That portion of the story, especially the parts with her young son, is entirely predictable – which can be death for a movie like this. And one is never quite clear what she sees in Bad, aside from his talent – for most of the movie the guy is pretty messed up, a disaster waiting to happen. And finally, the most honorable of mentions to the legendary Robert Duvall, who is wonderful in a small role as one of Bad’s oldest friends. Duvall’s inclusion in “Crazy Heart” is probably not accidental, given that he once played a very similar character himself (and carried off a gold statue of his own for the trouble), but it’s very welcome.
In the end, “Crazy Heart” is a very good movie, with a magnificent performance. Even if you don’t like country music, it’s well worth a watch just to watch Jeff Bridges do his job.