Friday, February 26, 2010

Crazy Heart

On a rare occasion one gets the opportunity to see a movie that takes us beyond the point of imagination to the point of reality. Crazy Heart was just the gem that recently accomplished this for me. It was on a Valentines Day date that I decided to be a little crazy and take my wife to a movie that I had wanted to see. It was a movie that stars an acting tour de force that we both appreciated, and a musical force I have appreciated for some time. Crazy Heart stars in his Academy Award nominated role for Best Actor Jeff Bridges for his portrayal of Bad Blake. It also features the wonderful talent of Maggie Gyllenhall as his love interest Jean Craddock, and in supporting roles two favorites, Robert Duvall as Wayne and Colin Farrell as Tommy Sweet.

Crazy Heart is the story of long time Country, Americana singer Bad Blake who has inspired many with his music. He has lived a life dedicated to music and in the process of that life has let his family, his life, and ultimately his music suffer and stagnate. He depends on the hits of his past to make it by, from bar to bar, experience to experience, and from bottle to bottle. His addiction to the bottle and alcohol has become his best and only friend until he meets up on a tour of dumps and dives the relative of a piano player who happens to be a reporter. She is looking for a story on the relationship of Bad Blake and the star he helped get started, Tommy Sweet. In the process, Bad develops a relationship with Maggie and her son, and begins a comeback journey where he not only discovers himself, but the reality of his experiences and the effects on his life.

Crazy Heart is a beautifully filmed, brilliantly acted, and mesmerizing story filled with some of the best music to come along in a very long time. The musical direction provided by T Bone Burnett is brilliant. I personally have some friends that have worked with T Bone in the past so I have been a long time fan, but to take away from the value of the music in this story would be to miss the entire story itself, for it is in the music that Bad begins to discover himself and the music drives the story from both a visual and thought perspective for the viewer, as we hear the songs, we can feel, and know what Blake has and is going through.

T Bone Burnett is a Christian who does not wear his faith on his sleeve, that spiritual component of the film is not lost in the morality lessons presented in this movie. Jeff Bridges, in what could be the role of his life plays brilliantly the conflict in the character of Bad Blake. We see the importance of relationships, and the danger that can occur from driving those individuals away. We see the real struggle of alcoholism presented on the screen as well as anything in the last few years. We see individuals trying to escape from their past and hide their sorrows in the bottom of a bottle. Bridges presents the most memorable character I have seen this last year. He lives and breathes the character. He also does a great job at actually performing and singing the songs of Bad Blake.

In Crazy Heart we also see the value of love and second chances. Maggie played absolutely beautifully by Maggie Gyllenhall is a character that has had her own heartbreak. She is reluctant to place herself in a relationship where she will be hurt. While she doesn’t fully understand her own actions and their impact on the life of her son, she does understand the importance of having a good role model for him. As a result of the relationship that develops between her and Bad Blake they begin to pull each other out of the bad experiences of their past.

In one sequence we see Wayne, (Robert Duvall) and Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) out fishing. Wayne tells Bad, that we can’t always focus on the mistakes of our past, when we make the effort to do right; at that moment we have made the effort to improve our lives for the now and future. As we see in the development of the story, this doesn’t mean that everything one has done wrong is suddenly better, there is and always will be consequences for our actions. Those consequences don’t change, there is still the payment for our sins in some ways, because people, situations, circumstances are still impacted and we can’t always change those things. There is forgiveness, life and potential in taking that change and effort we make and moving forward. What we can have is a hope for the future which will help us either deal with, or forget the mistakes of the past. In this regard, there are not only lessons for Blake and Maggie; we as the viewer realize there is potential for change and hope for us. We have to realize though, it all starts with love, and ultimately dealing with the mistakes we have made. There is a powerful lesson here for people of faith. No matter what our faith, we have to be willing to admit, and change our mistakes and faults, we have to also be willing to seek forgiveness, yet in that process understand, while our lives will be better, there are no guarantees our situations will be better.

I have been asked, does Crazy Heart end good or bad, happy or sad? My response is two fold, first I never tell those kinds of things, I hate it for me, and I refuse to do it to others, no matter what they think. Then I say something else, it ends as it begins, as a thing of beauty that is real. That is the most impressive concept of the movie to me; it is simply real, from the music, to the effects of alcoholism, to the complexity of relationship. Crazy Heart is Crazy Beautiful.

While Crazy Heart could have been nominated for more awards in my opinion, it is a likely contender in the three areas it is nominated for, in fact, I have seen no movie that has as compelling nominees as the three for Crazy Heart, Best Actor, Jeff Bridges, Best Supporting Actress Maggie Gyllenhall, and Best Achievement in Music, Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett.

On a scale of 1 – 10, take those three award nominations, multiply them by 3; you have a very worthwhile and real 9.

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