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Country cool – Crazy Heart rocks

I really am not a fan of country music – it reminds me too much of boermusiek and I think I’d rather pull out my toenails and chew them before I submit myself to that kind of torture. So it was with a little trepidation that I approached the film Crazy Heart. But, being a sucker for award-buzz, I decided I would just have to take the chance. And “howdy, cowboy!” I loved it. Ahem…

Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) is a washed-out, alcoholic country singer who crisscrosses America playing in seedy bars and bowling alleys. He’s one big cliché: he smokes himself to death and sleeps with a different woman in every town, while he slates his former protégé, Tommy Sweet (Collin Farrell), who’s now more successful than Blake ever was in his heyday.

But, there’s nothing like a good woman to make a bad man turn his life around. When Bad meets Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a small-town music journalist, and her four-year-old son, he decides to pull up the dirty socks inside his cowboy boots and turn his life around. However, things are never that simple – a lifetime of bad decisions cannot be undone by going to rehab or phoning a son you haven’t seen in 24 years.

The film is, admittedly, slow but in a beautifully poignant and graceful way. Bridges’ performance has earned him a Golden Globe and he’s pegged to take the Oscar for Best Actor too. He captures the regret of a life wasted with every look, and the fact that he sang all his own songs is impressive as well. Maggie Gyllenhaal produces, as ever, a heavy-calibre performance while Collin Farrell’s portrayal of the new, ‘sexy’ face of country is also noteworthy.

What made the film really worthwhile, however, is the music. There was little of the fiddler playing square-dance music in a barnyard that I expected. Instead, the score (which has also drawn some Oscar nods), is a compilation of haunting melodies with bluesy undertones and simple lyrics. It grabs a “Hold on You”, as one of Bad’s old hits rings.

Crazy Heart has been compared to The Wrestler but Bad Blake is just not quite as tragic a figure as Mickey Rourke’s character was. That said, do in-depth, character-based films need to be tragic in order to be any good? While Crazy Heart is a drama through and through, it is thankfully a not mind-numbingly depressing film. There are just too many of those on circuit right now.

Director: Scott Cooper
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell
Rating: 4 out of 5

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