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Crazy Heart

12 Jan

At a special sneak peak of Crazy Heart (opening at the Uptown Theater January 15) presented by, writer/director/producer Scott Cooper spoke about a conversation early in the production process with actor Robert Duvall. Duvall, a family friend and executive producer on the film had asked Cooper about what he needed for the project. “What we need,” Cooper said, “besides you and money, is T Bone Burnett and Jeff Bridges.” He got them both and the strength of Bridges’ performance and the deft musical helming of Burnett turn Cooper’s directorial debut into an affecting and tight story that should be getting a lot of attention during the awards season.

The tale is an old one, the story of a lost man finding redemption through new love, following Bridges’ hard-bit country singer “Bad” Blake as he stumbles through a lifetime of broken relationships, bar tunes and booze. Bridges gives Blake some of the air of The Dude, with his goatee and greasy hair he’s loosely making it work, aggrieved by his fast talking manager (James Keane), watching his protegĂ© Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell, in full long hair and beard) get ahead faster as he gets left watching the the dust, all with a drawling aplomb. When Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal) a sweet reporter with some bad relationship history and a cute 4-year-old named Buddy (Jack Nation) comes into his life, he slowly gets a new and changed perspective and reconnects with his talent. If it sounds cheesy, it should be, but like Blake says about the good songs, “It’s like you’ve already heard them before.”

Most of the tunes for Crazy Heart were written by Burnett with actual vocal performances for the film delivered by Bridges and Farrell, grounding the film with an authenticity that buoys the love story drama. Musician Ryan Bingham penned “The Weary Kind”, the song that Bad spends the movie trying to write and ought to be a contender for a Best Song Oscar, one of a number of tunes on the soundtrack that could be up for contention, but as Cooper put it, they didn’t want to split the vote so a song about a pimp could win.

In the end, it shouldn’t be such a surprise that this movie is a contender. Cooper originally wanted to tell the story of Merle Haggard, following Haggard around and working closely with him before realizing that Merle’s ex-wives would make the rights to that story impossible. But Crazy Heart had the backing of actors and a production that believed in it, stars forgoing salaries to work on a passion project (the entire film cost $7 million, a Hollywood pittance) and retains that hard-won plausibility of a life story- during the Q&A afterwards, there were several people who piped up about seeing themselves or their fathers in Bad Blake. You already know the story line of a lot of the best songs- it’s a running joke that country singers only really have one song- and films about heartache and redemption are often the same. It’s all in the delivery, and Crazy Heart hits all the right notes.

Staciaann was on site documenting the event for, when that goes up, we will update the link here.

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