Posted on Sunday, November 15th, 2009 by Hunter Stephenson
When I reported on Crazy Heart in 2008, the film was affiliated with the CMT network, yet drew my interest with a cast that included Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Robert Duval. All of these actors excel in roles steeped in the weathering of life and excess, and this tale of, “a washed-up, alcoholic country singer (Bridges) who gets his life back on track thanks to a reporter-type (Gyllenhaal),” obviously played to those strengths on the surface. The addition to the cast of Colin Farrell, forever in our good graces for In Bruges, made this a must-see no matter what.
Well, here we are in the fourth quarter of ’09 and the performance by Bridges is in the thick of Oscar buzz, drawing early comparisons to Mickey Rourke’s unflinching, redemptive arc in The Wrestler. Furthering this parallel, Crazy Heart is being distributed by Fox Searchlight, the company behind Darren Aronofsky’s comeback favorite; they recently decided to give Heart a limited release next month to qualify for consideration by the Academy. A poster for the film is out and attached below.
Here is the updated synopsis: Bad Blake is a broken-down, hard-living country music singer who’s had way too many marriages, far too many years on the road and one too many drinks way too many times. And yet, Bad can’t help but reach for salvation with the help of Jean, a journalist who discovers the real man behind the musician. Bad also becomes the mentor to a contemporary country star, Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), while simultaneously struggling in the rising young crooner’s shadow.
Interestingly enough, Duval plays a character named Wayne Kramer, but the role is apparently unrelated to the same-named guitarist of the Mc5. Scott Cooper is making his directorial debut with the film and he also adapted the screenplay from an identically titled novel written in the ’80s by Thomas Cobb. Whoever chose the poster’s tagline, “The harder the life, the sweeter the song,” deserves a shot on the house for not botching the job with the kind of overly saccharine sentiment we’ve come to expect. And not only is the sun-swept golden color palette and shadowing reminiscent of the one sheet for The Wrestler, but the latter film’s tagline, “Love. Pain. Glory,” could probably substitute as well.
At this point in his career, it would take a serious misstep by Bridges not to accept him in a salt-of-the-earth, man’s-man role such as this. There aren’t a lot of great, non-metro actors left who are genuinely convincing and not polarizing in “heartland” material, and with Bridges lending vocal duties to the songs as well, the number decreases yet again. The title also reminds me of Bridges underrated performance as a struggling father on the fringe in American Heart. Country rock musician T Bone Burnett contributed original music and co-produced the project.
Also, I’m still curious to find out if the film was at all inspired by Duval’s role in 1983’s Tender Mercies as an, “alcoholic former country singer named Mac Sledge who makes friends with a young widow and her son. The friendship enables him to find inspiration to resume his career.” With less than a month before it’s theatrical roll-out, expect a trailer shortly. Fox Searchlight will release the film in select cities on December 16th.