Heart” is a film that we feel like we’ve seen before, but the performances
of the primary characters are significant enough to pay attention, anyway.
Jeff Bridges plays “Bad Blake,” a country singer who’s been on the
road too long: and his
self-indulgence has left a lot of broken hearts in his wake.
Four marriages, or is it five? A
son who’s now 28, but he hasn’t seen him or talked to him since he was 4
years old. There was a protégé,
Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), once a backup singer, but he hauled off and made a
big success out of himself, and now, well, it’s throwing his guitar in the
back of his beat-up old Suburban, driving alone for hours to the next bowling
alley or seedy bar. And more
one-night stands than he can count. He
stays drunk. Smokes incessantly.
Sweats profusely when he does perform, or at least staggers up to the
stage to croak out a few bars. Snubs
the backup band, and refuses to rehearse with them.
He had some hit songs, once, and his agent keeps begging him to write
more, but he’s too stupefied most of the time---seeing the world through an
alcoholic haze, seasoned with cigarette smoke.
Other than his agent, with whom he enjoys a stormy relationship of mutual
insult, he’s got one real friend in the world, Wayne (Robert Duvall), who
keeps the hometown bar in Houston running for him, and rousts him out, when
he’s home, to take him fishing.
See, he’s met this girl, Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal), that he really cares
about, along with her four-year-old son (that irony is not lost on any of us,
including Bad Blake). He really
wants to do right by her. But, of
course, he messes that up, as well. The
only good news is that the searing emotional pain cuts through his personal
purple haze, and he feels enough to start writing songs again.
It’s a kind of success through failure, and it seems to fit “Bad
Blake” and his bad ol’ self.
We’re not sure why, exactly, but we like this guy.
At least he is who he presents himself to be, so much so that he can’t
distinguish his “real” self from his stage persona, either.
It’s not just that he sings country songs, he is a country song.
Old-school country: the hard-drinkin’,
wanderin’, restless, lonely, crooner that’s as much a part of
Maggie Gyllenhaal adds much as the counterpoint:
the lovely, classy young lady whom he adores, and can charm, temporarily,
but can’t bring himself to live up to. The
music is passable, as is the musicianship (Bridges can actually play and sing,
and he sure looks the part).
“Crazy Heart” is perhaps a bit self-consciously over-the-top about
the character of the dissolute, broken-down bar singer.
But Jeff Bridges makes it all believable.
And if we find ourselves enjoying his drunken cowboy routine better than
his sober songwriter persona, well, that maybe says more about us than it does
about him, doesn’t it?
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen,
Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church,