The first of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous declares that one is powerless over alcohol and their life is unmanageable. In a very real and vivid way the movie “Crazy Heart” (Fox Searchlight Pictures) demonstrates this. Jeff Bridges has been nominated in the Best Actor category by the Academy of Motion Pictures and may finally win an Oscar on the fifth try. His portrayal of an aging, down-on-his-luck alcoholic country singer legend is poignant, painful and real.
The movie was shot mostly in and around Albuquerque. I recognized the Civic Plaza downtown along with a restaurant (El Toro) and some other great shots of New Mexico mountains, mesas and skies. There is also a pivotal concert scene that was shot at the Journal Pavilion. I was in the audience at the Toby Keith show that night when the filming took place. It was exciting to see how well the scene turned out.
In this movie Bad Blake, the Jeff Bridges character, is a man whose career and life are spiraling ever downward. He’s reduced to playing in bowling alleys and dives. But the hotshot new country sensation, Tommy Sweet (played by Colin Farrell) has recorded a few of his songs and wants Blake to write more for him. Blake still has the gift for writing a great song, and despite his protests that he can’t do it anymore he ends up turning out a jewel. But he’s also near bottom and the movie details some tragic events, such as an auto accident, losing track of a little boy he’s watching because he stops for a drink in a bar (the boy is the son of a younger female music reviewer he’s smitten with, played elegantly by Maggie Gyllenhaal in another Oscar nominated performance), and incidents of collapsing health. It’s the sad litany all too familiar to alcoholics. Blake also has the deep-seated denial that blinds hard core boozers. How dark it is before the dawn.
This movie has a redemptive storyline and it reminded me so much of the great grace that God works in the lives of people who are running out of options. Of course, getting sober requires willingness and the action to accept God’s grace and live a new life – one day at a time.
Reportedly Jeff Bridges declined writer/director Scott Cooper’s overtures to be in this movie until he found out his friend (and music genius) T-Bone Burnett would be responsible for the musical direction. Burnett has a great grasp for providing or finding powerful music for films (such as “O Brother Where Art Thou?”). The original music he and the late Stephen Bruton wrote for the film has that instantly classic feel of great country music. Burnett also serves as one of the producers, as does Robert Duvall, whose additional small part as a Houston bartender and longtime friend of Bad Blake is a joy to watch. But the best performance belongs to Bridges who captures the alcoholic self centeredness and suffering so vividly. He demonstrates once again why he is one of our best and most under-appreciated actors.
This is not a Christian-themed movie, but the heart of a loving power is certainly evident in those who care about and help others. That’s the power of God who came into the world as the man, Jesus, to save the lost, be they prostitutes, tax collectors, the blind, deaf, lame or self-centered and suffering addicts. Some might say Jesus has a “crazy heart” for his lost sheep. But anyone whose felt that redemptive love is awed and grateful for it.