(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: Jeff Bridges plays Bad Blake, a once-great country music singer who at 57 is reduced to playing in bars and bowling alleys. He has one last chance at love with a reporter sent to interview him. The reporter, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, could use a father figure for her son and Bridges likes the role. But there is a reason Bad is screwing up his life. Scott Cooper writes and directs based on Thomas Cobb's novel. The story is familiar, but the Cooper gives us characters with texture. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

Bad Blake (played by Jeff Bridges) was a country singer who in his time had something of a following. Many of the current popular singers owe their style to learning from him. But the show is ending for Bad Blake. He gets a few paying gigs these days, but nothing great. He drives his pickup all over the southwest to rundown bars and bowling alleys that still have a place for him to entertain their customers. Bad gets his entertainment from the bottom of a bottle. He prides himself on never having missed a performance, but too often when he should be on stage his face is in a trashcan losing his last few drinks. In Santa Fe attractive reporter Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal) interviews him and the two of them hit it off. He even likes Jean's little boy. The problem is that Bad and Jean and the bottle make for a crowd of three and it is one too many. Bad wants to commit, but he cannot help living up to his first name whenever he passes a bar or sees a cute young fan in the audience.

Bridges plays the role note-perfectly. He seems to like to play singers in lots of different genres. He was a stoned-out rock singer in TIDELAND. Earlier in his career he was a lounge singer in THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS. He can be a maverick automobile executive, a mathematics professor, the President of the United States, or an alien. He will not be typecast and his characters have depth and authenticity. With Robert Duvall as a bartender and an old friend of Bad, that makes two actors of that quality in this film. And the two actors have something else in common. Neither has much of a singing voice. Bridges does his own singing in this film, but I do not expect he will cut an album any time soon. Robert Duvall may be the greatest American actor today (and he does a mean tango), but when he tries to sing in the closing credits the results are painful.

Stephen Bruton and T-Bone Burnett wrote the country music. Burnett is himself a country music legend. In addition he provided music for O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU? and THE LADYKILLERS (2004). Here he lends a tone of authenticity and style. The film is reminiscent of Robert Duvall's TENDER MERCIES. It is a sort of old shoe of a film, comfortable with nothing really fancy. You really care if these two people will make it together. And there is some nice scenery that Bad Blake passes as he travels the Southwest. But the center of attraction is that performance by Bridges.

Some good country music and some people you care about make this film likable if nothing flashy. But Bridges's characterization is first rate. I give CRAZY HEART a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.

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					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2009 Mark R. Leeper