I knew this would happen. (Sigh).
I’m not even going to say it. I’m not going to say, for the fourth time in a month, that I have a new favorite for the Best Actor Oscar. Instead, I’ll go a little safer and predict that the Best Actor race will be stronger than it has been in years.
There’s a movie like Crazy Heart every year. A movie virtually no one has heard of, gets seen by enough studio execs and gets bumped to a late year opening, just in time to qualify for awards. For a film that was inches away from being released on cable TV, Crazy Heart packs one hell of a wallop.
The film tells a clichéd story, but wisely leaves out the clichés. There’s the old, washed up country singer. He’s a hard drinkin’, hard smokin’, hard livin’ fella. He had a string of hits early in his career, selling out massive venues, but is now reduced to small gigs in bowling alleys dumped in Middletown America.
Sound familiar? Actually, Crazy Heart is a lot like my favorite film from 2008, The Wrestler. Washed up famous guy. Parties too much. Has a long-lost kid. Meets a girl that turns him around., etc.
In the Mickey Rourke role, we have Jeff Bridges as Bad Blake. While I was watching the film, I wasn’t really impressed with Bridges, and then something clicked. I had a grand epiphany in the theatre: I’m not impressed because it looks like Bridges isn’t doing anything. But he’s actually doing everything. His performance is so nuanced, so subtle, that I’m sure it will lead to Oscar gold. Think about it, how many great Jeff Bridges performances have you seen?
The Last Picture Show, Starman, The Fabulous Baker Boys, The Fisher King, Fearless, The Contender, The Door in the Floor, and lest we forget is revelatory turn as ‘The Dude’ in The Big Lebowski. I mean seriously, this Dude can act. But why don’t we remember him all that much? Why isn’t he mentioned among the greats? When was the last time you saw De Niro or Pacino deliver work as good as this?
Well, you get the point, I’m a fan. And Crazy Heart is Bridges’ swan song. I haven’t really talked about the film, written and directed by first-timer Scott Cooper. I haven’t mentioned Maggie Gyllenhaal (always good) as Bad’s new muse. She plays the role wonderfully, never giving too much, never going the way we think. And there’s Colin Farrell… playing a famous country singer with beautifully restrained conviction. Colin Farrell can sing country music? No shit.
Oh yeah, and the songs, produced by O Brother, Where Art Thou maestro T-Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton, prove to be as enduring as the story itself. Ryan Bingham’s theme “The Weary Kind” should be a shoo-in for Best Song. (But then again, so should’ve Springsteen’s “The Wrestler” last year, and that wasn’t even nominated.)
There are some good flicks out there to see. Stop treating yourself like a moron with the cookie-cutter garbage currently spewing out of the most multiplexes. Venture to an indie theatre. That’s where the gold is.
PS, Jeff Bridges has a line of endearment in this film that is so perfect, so exquisitely executed, that I’d be shocked if it wasn’t featured as his Oscar clip. Stay tuned. A