Throughout his impressive film career, Jeff Bridges has racked up four Academy Award nominations – “The Last Picture Show,” “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot,” “Starman” and “The Contender” – but he’s come up short each time.
With his sensational performance as the washed-up, whiskey-soaked country singer Bad Blake, however, Bridges is finally likely to wrap his hand around that elusive Oscar.
It’s a stunning, fearless portrayal without a single false moment. Channeling a perfect blend of country music hell-raisers Kris Kristofferson and the late Waylon Jennings, Bridges plays Blake as the quintessential hard-living, road-weary troubadour on the brink of self-destruction and disintegration. It’s not a pretty picture.
First-time director Scott Cooper has surrounded Bridges’ low-key but intense performance with a stellar supporting cast that includes Maggie Gyllenhaal (as a music writer), Robert Duvall (as the owner of Blake’s hometown Houston nightclub) and Colin Farrell (as Tommy Sweet, Blake’s former protege, who has become a modern country superstar).
They all turn in rich, finely detailed performances, but ultimately Bridges’ most potent co-star is the music itself. And producer T Bone Burnett has come up with another winner on the scale of “O Brother, Where Art Thou.”
The film’s Burnett-Ryan Bingham-penned theme song, “The Weary Kind,” is garnering most of the attention, having already won a Golden Globe for Best Original Song. But the rest of the original soundtrack music – primarily co-written by Burnett and the late, sadly underrated Stephen Bruton – also resonates with a rare authenticity, from honky-tonkers (“Somebody Else,” “I Don’t Know”) to love songs (“Hold on Now”). Bridges and Farrell both do their own singing, and they hit the bullseye, especially with their duet of “Fallin’ & Flyin’.”
Based on the 1987 novel of the same name by Thomas Cobb, “Crazy Heart” is a classic tale of redemption and salvation, although there are a enough twists and turns along the road to keep it from getting too formulaic. But ultimately, the film is a love letter to country music, a career-defining performance by Jeff Bridges and a fitting final tribute to Stephen Bruton.
“Crazy Heart” opens in the Spectrum 8 Theatres and other theaters around Nippertown on Friday.