There’s a telling scene about half way through writer/director Scott Cooper’s accomplished début film Crazy Heart where big Bad Blake tells his new “old lady” Jean that the best new songs are the ones that make you feel like you’ve heard them before.
Well, we’ve heard this one before: Down-and-out alcoholic country crooner Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges in the role of a lifetime destined now for Oscar gold) gets involved with a sweet but jaded reporter named Jean (the strangely appealing, droopy-eyed and increasingly Olive-Oil-esque Maggie Gyllenhaal) and her young son (Moppet-for-Hire Jack Nation) and tries to make good one last time while living in the shadow of the uber-famous singer he taught everything he knew (a slightly miscast and pony-tailed Colin Farrell). The film follows Blake’s ups and downs as he tries to create the family he never had, revive his career and clean-up his act.
Apart from the great lead performances, the film boasts crazy good music from T. Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton and nicely photographed panoramas of the South West by Barry Markowitz.
There’s nothing revolutionary about the story of Bad Blake, and for most of the film’s runtime it follows the clichéd pattern of the musical bio-pic. However, much in the spirit of the slightly more progressive Up in the Air, it’s refreshing to see a story about real people you feel like you know not end in some fairy-tale way. Crazy Heart shows that you can make good, but sometimes you can’t go home. You need to take success as it comes, even if it’s not in the way you had planned. You have to find happiness where you can. People you love who you’ve hurt might forgive you, they might not, and even if you change there’s no guarantee they’ll want to be with you. Home is where the heart is…and change works best when you do it for yourself.
Crazy Heart plays a comfortably familiar bittersweet song, but it doesn’t stick in the throat.
In other more wearisome movie-going news, I can’t imagine anything he does from here on out will allow me to forgive Terry Gilliam for the monstrosity that is his rambling, incoherent, mean-spirited, misogynistic, ludicrous mess, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (which also features a cameo from Colin Farrell).
Fans of Heath Ledger should consider it a blessing that most of the movie-going world is not even aware this film exists, and it’s totally tanked at the box office. Thankfully Ledger will forever be remembered as the Joker and not for this train wreck.
Gilliam’s film features run-away and non-sensical visuals, a story that defies all logic and poorly written and unlikable characters doing…oh, who really cares? What the hell happened to the Monty Python alum who was responsible for some of the most wildly imaginative, entertaining and interesting films of the 1980’s and 1990’s like Time Bandits, Brazil, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and Twelve Monkeys? The only thing I can surmise is that while making Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Gilliam’s imagination loaded up on so many “drugs” that it can longer function in a physical universe.
I never thought Gilliam could make something worse than The Brothers Grimm, but he really outdid himself with The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. It’s a shame to see a guy like that fall on such hard times. Maybe Bad Blake could write a song about Gilliam. It would sure be a sad one. Sometimes there really ain’t no place for the weary kind. And the movies ain’t no place to lose your mind.
Written by David H. Schleicher