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Ten Word or Less Review: Nice movie.  Bridges is great.  Solid music.

Jeff Bridges is not a matinee idol.  Never really was.  He never had the iconic parts like Harrison Ford.  He didn’t have the muscular thing going on so he was never an action star.  He’s got great comedic timing and charm, but he was never really a comedy stalwart.  If you take a good hard look at his resume, it’s littered with epic failures, forgotten duds and just the occasional classic.  But the best thing about these films, regardless of the end product, was typically Jeff Bridges.  He is, in the best since of the word, a great actor.  He’s rarely played the standard Hollywood games that actors play.  And while he may not have found the huge amounts of success like other actors of his generation, he’s got integrity, respect and because of “Crazy Heart”, his fifth Oscar nomination in his 38 year career.

Bridges plays Bad Blake, a weary as hell, constantly smoking and drinking country music star whose career has washed out to the point that he’s playing bowling alleys and beer halls.  Whatever fortunes he’s made are long gone.  He’s left a trail of ex-wives and empty whisky bottles.  He lives gig to gig, bottle to bottle, trying to eek out a life.  He then meets a small town journalist, Maggie Gyllynhaal, who’s smitten with his honesty and beer flavored charm.  Bad’s luck finally starts to turn a little, but booze and bad judgment keep screwing with his attempts at a better life.  Bad has to decide if his life is going to end in some nameless hotel at the bottom of a bottle, or if he’s got the strength to dust himself off and keep making music that expresses what’s left inside this worn out old man.

“Crazy Heart” won’t win awards for ingenuity or originality.  Steadily guided by director Scott Cooper, “Heart” is a straight ahead tale that most people will know where it’s heading long before it gets there, but not mind following it that way.  Bridges is a class act in the kind of role that will inevitably be called some kind of swan song for the man.  Such contrivances shouldn’t be uttered.  Just because Bridges is playing a man at the end of his game doesn’t mean he is.  I see the part as just another success story in his long and worthy career.  It seems like people have to be reminded what a great actor Bridges is every few years, hopefully this will clue people in, again.  He’s ably backed by Gyllenhaal in a part that she embodies quite believably, despite the implausible nature that drives it.  Like Bridges, she’s been nominated for an Oscar for her efforts.

“Crazy Heart” is also a movie held up by fine music.  The songs penned by T. Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham are not run of the mill country schmaltz.  They’re genuinely affecting, low key efforts with strong lyrics.  So much so that the film’s title track has been nominated for Best Song.  If these songs had fallen flat, the movie would’ve done the same, or at least been far less meaningful.  Bridges carries all of his own singing duties and does well by the material.  Less successful, but in a less important role, is Colin Farrell cast a country superstar protégé of Bad’s  Farrell is fine in the part, but it’s quite clear that asking an Irishman to sing country may have been a bit of a stretch.

“Crazy Heart” is a nice, mid-tempo, unforced drama that succeeds despite the unoriginal nature of most of it.  Those calling it ‘The Wrestler with a guitar’ are on the nose, but “Heart” is mercifully missing that film’s relentlessly skuzzy veneer.  “Heart” is by no means a sanitary experience, the stench of Marlboro practically emanates from the screen as Bridges chain smokes through the whole film, but it’s got more charm and a better sense of fulfillment than “Wrestler” did.  Fans of Bridges and skilled song writing should find a lot to value in its viewing.

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