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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Crazy Heart turns mic over to Jeff Bridges’ rambling man

click to enlarge BREAKING BAD: Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges, left) at the bar with an old buddy (Robert Duvall)
  • BREAKING BAD: Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges, left) at the bar with an old buddy (Robert Duvall)

About halfway through Crazy Heart, country music legend/has-been Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) identifies the endearing immediacy of classic songs: "That's the way it is with good ones – you're sure you've heard them before." The rule doesn't go both ways, however. Some tunes that sound familiar might just be cribbed from earlier, better singles.

Initially Crazy Heart sounds like a song you've heard before, and it's hard to tell whether it's due to the universality of its themes or the weariness of its clichés. Crazy Heart covers well-worked ground as a redemption drama about a down-and-out artist who finds a new start thanks to the love of a good woman. Bridges taps his innate, laid-back charisma as Bad Blake so effectively it's easy to overlook the film's recycled material, at least until the last act.

Adapting Thomas Cobb's 1987 novel, writer/director Scott Cooper begins with a finely detailed snapshot of the demands of life on the road. Bad drives hundreds of miles across the Southwest between gigs, where he fronts pick-up bands he's never met and doesn't bother to rehearse with. In the first scene, he arrives for a one-night stand at a bowling alley bar called the Spare Room, where he pukes drunkenly mid-set, but still beds the world's oldest groupie afterward. Cooper winks to The Big Lebowski by giving Bridges a backdrop of bowling lanes and a drink in his hand. With a scraggly beard, mussed-up gray hair and more than a few extra pounds, Bridges appears to be aging into a twin of Kris Kristofferson, which helps make him a convincing veteran country singer/songwriter.

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(Photo Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox)

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