I don’t know what to say.
Wait, yes I do: If I walk into a film inundated by critical acclaim, I don’t expect to walk out feeling as though I’ve just witnessed a minor catastrophe. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened with Crazy Heart, a lumbering “down on his luck” movie, that moves from one cliche to the next with astonishing ease.
Otis “Bad” Blake (Oscar winner Jeff Bridges) is a former country-western star whose career is in steep decline. It doesn’t help that he’s loaded to the gills half the time, simply because he can be. Along comes Jean, a small town newspaper reporter and single mother played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, eager for an interview with Blake before his big show at a local bowling alley. They meet, fall in love quickly, and Blake is forced to reassess his life as he moves from one drunken stupor to another.
Fine. I can buy Jeff Bridges as a broken-down drunk, and he’s very good here. But please don’t ask me to suspend my disbelief by casting Gyllenhaal, one of the best actresses working, as a woman willing to fall in love with this fetid mess, and then proceed to make her the smartest person in the room. This woman would never, even on her worst day, get within ten feet of Bad Blake, let alone slip into bed with him on the second date. It’s a colossal misstep in character and casting, and as a result, the chemistry between Bridges and Gyllenhaal, with the exception of a magnificent opening sequence, is disastrous.
And never mind the scene of Blake entering rehab, only to re-emerge two minutes later, fully recovered; or the horrific miscasting of Colin Farrell as a rising country star who owes Blake more than a debt of gratitude. I’ll say this with absolute conviction: Colin Farrell will never, not even for a minute, be convincing as a down-home country cowboy. And the sequence where Jean leaves her young son, Buddy, in Blake’s care for the day is a complete wreck. How that scene plays out, and the anger I felt at being manipulated, is unforgivable.
This film is a mess, moving from Blake’s downfall and recovery so quickly (and predictably), that I could almost picture writer-director Scott Cooper with his finger on the fast-forward button. Cooper brings nothing new to the theme; indeed, he makes it worse by insulting his audience with the notion that he’s created an important film merely by coaxing a terrific performance from Bridges.
A complete disappointment.