Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Crazy Heart

Free of the irritating tabloid brouhaha that screams 'Movie Star', Jeff Bridges simply is one. A member of the old school who infuses the silver screen with understated, graceful, genuine charisma, it wouldn't be remiss to suggest that his (Oscar-winning) role is the engine of Crazy Heart. Yet it's the very selflessness of the performance, the honesty, the ability to share the screen with, and offer it to, his equally talented, if less accomplished, co-stars that makes Crazy Heart such a pleasure to watch.

The proof is in the pudding: character-led intimacy, when done as successfully as it is here, proves just as magical (if not more) as the CGI-inflated majesty of Avatar. The quiet, intimate unveiling not just of Bridges' alcoholic washed up country n' western crooner but of semi-rural American life is seductive. It's a life of dime stores, beer and the Texas/New Mexico open road – all naff clich├ęs as substantial as a corndog and healthy as pancakes with maple syrup, but incredibly addictive nonetheless.

And protagonists don’t come more American than Bridges’ Bad Blake, former hit maker who has been languishing outside the big time for years. First seen pouring his urine on the site of his latest ‘gig’ – a nowhere-ville bowling alley – he still inspires a cult following in those living on society’s fringes. It’s the instant attraction between Blake and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s single-parent journalist however that offers the first glimpses at redemption, not to mention another shot at the big time backing up his closest rival Tommy Sweet (uncredited Colin Farrell). If only Blake can keep his demons in check…

Oh yes, there have to be demons in a story such as this, played out against a land of sunsets and cowboy boots. Comparisons with The Wrestler will inevitably draw their head but this is hardly appropriate or fair: Darren Aronofsky’s film was hardly a model of originality in its own right and besides it’s all relative. If Crazy Heart had been released first, The Wrestler would have been accused of plagiarism. But anyway – just don’t expect surprises.

Do expect a typically laconic, casually iconic performance from Bridges, surely channeling The Dude’s alcoholic cousin but doing it with his effortless shambling charm, and yet another piercing, intelligent portrayal from Gyllenhaal. The interactions between the two make familiarity seep into the background (mostly) and offer a palpable sense of two lost souls making a connection, in the process creating some of the most electric chemistry of the year. And even if Bridges eventually tires of this acting malarkey, he has a chance at becoming Bad Blake for real, if his blistering musical numbers are anything to go by.

No comments:

Post a Comment