I’ll tell you about a story about a guy named Blake,
He’s the baddest of the bad, for goodness sake.
He drinks heavier than that anyone I’ve ever known,
And they made into an Oscar nominated drone.
And so begins the tale of Bad Blake, played by Oscar nominee Jeff Bridges (The Big Lebowski). The story of a washed up country start making a comeback isn’t really a new story. Actually, it’s a very old one, and one most notably performed and told by Mickey Rourke in 2008’s The Wrestler, but more on that film later. Having spent several years on the charts, Blake trained a young man who became his protégé and ultimately screwed him over. So, there lays Blake, wasting away as he goes from bar to bowling alley to every other dump in which old people listen to country music. Downing several glasses of some hard liquor each scene, he manages to appear at shows completely intoxicated. He then meets a young journalist named Jean, a single mother who is all too willing to reveal her personal life to this “old man”. The two instantly have chemistry with each other, but the thing is that it’s a little weird.
The songs are standard country fare, which may or may not be your tumbler of tequila. The songs were written by country music producer and writer T Bone Burnett, country singer and co-star Ryan Bingham, and star Jeff Bridges. From the enjoyable and rather jovial “I Don’t Know” to the dreary “Hold on You”, the songs have a nice taste, but after an hour of the film, the repeated taste and twang of the genre gets rather sour and even cacophonous. However, I will get to the Oscar nominated song “The Weary Kind” later in the review.
The story is a tale told several times, so we’re more than used to it, maybe even a little tired of it. After meeting Jean, redemption seems possible for Blake, but the problem is that it takes too long for that to happen. It’s nearly a half hour before the film end that Blake decides finally to join Alcoholics Anonymous and get sober, trying to win back Jean.
The film being so very closely related to last year’s Oscar nominated The Wrestler will naturally draw comparisons. I think The Wrestler was better. What it had in a nuanced performance revealing humanness throughout its lead character, Randy “the Ram”, Crazy Heart actually lacks. Instead it feels too much like a stereotyped character, too written and doesn’t give Bridges enough room to make the character his own. It seems as he is so written for text rather than screen that as his life spirals down into a deep hell hole, so does our interest, waning and waning until we don’t care.
Collin Ferrell, a great Scotsman in films like In Bruges, plays a country star. Blake’s former protégé screws him over to make a career all his own. The surprising thing? Ferrell is actually great as Tommy Sweet, the young Garth Brooks of this film. He has a really good voice, as he sings “I Don’t Know” with Blake at one of his concerts, and he’s believable.
The best part of the film is the last song, “The Weary Kind”, written as Blake is getting sober and trying to put his life back on track. Encompassed in the song is all the emotion, power, and human nuance that should have been in the film and in the character. Its sweet tonal sounds are mellifluous and “crazy heart-breaking”, and, like the snubbed theme from Gran Torino, a beautiful companion to the film and a must buy on iTunes.
Overall, the film’s weaknesses outweigh its strengths so that the audience is left with a mildly boring, emotionless character and a rather archetypal storyline that was better played by Mickey Rourke.