"My real name'll be on my tombstone... 'til then I'll just stay 'Bad'," mutters Jeff Bridges' character Bad Blake in the much talked about new film Crazy Heart. The movie which drops us into the ragged life of a nearly washed up country western singer/songwriter threatens to be ripe with cliches but is instead driven brilliantly home by Bridges' charmingly flawless performance.
Bad Blake is a music legend in his neck of the woods and, although recognized and revered by many, is in danger of fading into obscurity and the throes of poor health. Reduced to playing bowling alleys and tiny roadside cantinas while moving from one ratty motel to the next and constantly bickering with his business-first manager, Bad Blake struggles with the usual life on the road demons of alcoholism, chronic chain smoking and ill-advised one night stands. He appears weary, weathered and a little on the frumpy side in his endless barrage of western shirts and Rustler jeans.
This does not obscure the fact that Bad (as he is often humorously referred) is an undeniable talent and still has gas left in the tank. Enter Maggie Gyllenhaal as a vulnerable, single mom journalist who in her quest to glean some insight into the psyche of an outlaw country singer falls prey to the dubious charms of Bridges' character. A whirlwind romance ensues that one senses is completely on eggshells, destined for the singer's back pages.
Setting the film apart is Bridges' understated portrayal of Bad Blake that is every bit as deserving of the Oscar hype it has garnered. His performance fits the character like a perfectly broken-in pair of cowboy boots and presents us with a character that is shown warts and all but remains believably human, charismatic and big-hearted despite his obvious flaws. Bad Blake exudes an irrepressible underdog spirit that keeps you rooting for him to spit in the face of the odds.
The supporting cast serves as much more than acting roadies and help in weaving the rustic tapestry of the film. Gyllenhaal, Colin Ferrell (in a surprisingly restrained role) and the perennially cool Robert Duvall all serve as excellent foils and moral compasses for the hard-living Bad Blake.
The film's musical backdrop is equally effective featuring music by Waylon Jennings, Buck Owens and acclaimed young upstart Ryan Bingham (who is also featured in the film). In the vein of the Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line, Bridges and Ferrell both do their own singing which lends even more authenticity to the proceedings.
While the plot is nothing new and the dusty terrain quite familiar, Bridges and company provide a pulsing sincerity that make Crazy Heart a true hit.
Check out the trailer.
Crazy Heart is playing at the Kentucky Theatre here in Lexington.