Crazy Heart

Everyone’s gone country. From Gwyneth Paltrow promoting new flick Country Strong on Glee with Dixie Chix covers, to fashion on the high-street. Everyone’s in love with the deep south. So it’s high time I publish my thoughts on Crazy Heart – and maybe dig out my cowboy boots.

Scott Cooper’s music-drama features Jeff Bridges as down-and-out country music star ‘Bad Blake’ who tries to turn his life around after meeting journalist Jean Craddock, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal.

This tragic film is one of uncomfortable voyeurism. We’re introduced to Bad Blake as he orders a drink before his low budget gig, in a tacky bowling alley in the arse end of nowhere-ville. The admiration he receives from everyone ensures we understand he’s fallen from grace, and his smooth talking in the liquor store ensures we know how.

Cooper takes a realistic and inglorious approach to portraying alcoholism – there’s no witty one-liners, no ‘loveable rogue’ when Bad Blake’s been at the sauce. Rather, intimate camera close-ups and unflattering angles help form a sense of confusion and disgust - which accurately reflects Blake’s current state of mind.

The tipsy car-crash, violent sickness and barely intelligible gigs mould an atmosphere of foreboding, which culminates in the shopping mall scene when Jean’s son Buddy goes AWOL. The audience is routing for Blake, but you know it’s all about to go horribly wrong. That scene was more uncomfortable to watch than the drunken bender which followed.

But why? Because, it was a knife-edge moment. If Blake could only keep himself together, then a lifetime of happiness could await him with the lovely Jean and Buddy. But he can’t. And we know he can’t. Addiction is horrible thing – it’ll lead you to water, but leave you twice as thirsty afterwards.

Like all artists, Blake’s talent is open to abuse and waste. While lamenting the loss of Jean he writes some of the best music of his career, and it doesn’t go unnoticed. Former protégée Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell) is hoping to advance his already successful career by buying the rights, but he offers no solace or help. Neither does his long-standing agent, who’s only priority is Tommy and getting Blake to sell up on song rights.

Sweet’s character is an obvious indictment of the manufactured ‘country’ stars in America. Big on style, small on god-given talent. Blake represents the old, soulful core of country, while Sweet is the clear, commercial future. And we see which one wins, when Blake ultimately sells him his best song, to then donate the money to Buddy. One final act of redemption on his (hopefully) final road to sobriety.

Any Kurk Cobain/ James Dean/ Marilyn fan can appreciate how tragic it is to see talent, more so, a life, wasted – and it doesn’t matter if it’s a music idol, or your next door neighbour.

Coen brother’s favourite, T-Bone Burnett, stamps out another impressive audio footprint with a heart-felt, reflective and entertaining soundtrack (some performed by Bridges and Farrell). Aside from the drama, the music really allows Bridges to dazzle us with this Oscar winning performance – his natural charisma shines out when he sings – especially title track, ‘The Weary Kind’, which stands out for its haunting, choked melancholy.

No comments:

Post a Comment