For a man who usually pays his bills by acting small parts in various television series and the occasional film, the story of Scott Cooper’s 2009 rise to fame is nothing short of inspiring. As a first time director on the film Crazy Heart, which Cooper also adapted from a Thomas Cobb novel, he has created a film many seasoned directors could only long for. The screenplay is tight, dramatic and emotive but also quite funny. The cinematography is clear and vast, capturing the space of land and mind within the scope of protagonist, geriatric rocker Bad Blake.
Unsurprisingly, it is a combination of subtle and poignant song lyrics set to the natural rise and fall motion of one man’s hardened life that cannot determine whether this film should be remembered most for its soundtrack or its acting. According to the folks over at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Scott Cooper has coordinated a film in considerable contention for three Oscar awards; Jeff Bridges for Best Actor, Maggie Gyllenhaal for Best Supporting Actress and Ryan Bingham and T-Bone Burnett for Best achievement in Music for their song “The Weary Kind”. If the results of the Golden Globes, the BAFTAS and both the Screen and Actors’ Guilds of America can attest, 2010 looks to be the year of the golden trophies for Crazy Heart.
While still young and stunning, here Gyllenhaal takes on the role of a successful yet strained single mother with a knack for always falling for the bad guy. Truly, it is Maggie Gyllenhaal who brings life to a battered character as small-town journalist Jean. In this film, she falls for the worst of the worst — a rocker well past his prime that goes by the name of Bad Blake (Bridges) — and like him for her, she falls hard.
In the beginning their union seems a little weird and honestly, borderline gross. He’s twice her age, dirty and careless. He’s eating, drinking and making his way to an early grave with every one night stand he can get. She’s softly spoken, protective of her son but also weary and timid of the scars she wears in her heart by men who have since passed through. As the two collide she plays him off early, but continually they find themselves in situations that both remind them of emotions of the past and inspire their individual attempts at success – in love and in work.
As Jean becomes Bad’s muse, his music becomes reminiscent of his early genius and as a result, he once again holds the ears of the country music world. Through ups and downs directly influenced by Bad’s alcoholic dependencies and poor health, the couple weather a relationship that was doomed from the start. In resolution of this film the honest beauty is evident in the impact that each had on the other and, how their intersection provided the catalyst that allows Jean to love again and Bad Blake to rock again, back in form.
With amazing input by Colin Farrell, who plays a contemporary country rock god — who neither shoots anything nor broods for too long throughout the entire film — and some fantastic acting by youngster jack Nation as Jean’s son, Crazy Heart portrays a plethora of multi-layered characters as vast and demanding as the harsh environment of the American South-West.
Perfect for those in need of a good emotional cleanse, Crazy Heart does not harp on too much about country music or the country music scene, still affording those less inclined to the genre a decent trip to the movies. Most people will find it hard not to get sucked into Bad’s musical confessions, and will surely find themselves with with a distinctive tune stuck on repeat in their brains for days afterwards.
If you fancy a cinematic cross between Johnny Cash’s story Walk the Line and last year’s The Wrestler then this could quickly become your favourite movie ever.