A colleague of mine recently suggested that playing a boozy, washed-up country singer is the male equivalent of the hooker with a heart of gold. He may be right, but that doesn't mean that Jeff Bridges' performance in Crazy Heart is any less affecting. Writer-director Scott Cooper has effectively captured the essence of obsessive self-destruction, as well as the self-indulgent verisimilitude that drives artists to blur or obliterate the lines between life and art. Bolstered by galvanizing performances by Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal as the woman whose own self destruction comes in the form of love for the wrong kind of man, Crazy Heart tells a powerful if sometimes familiar story that ranks as one of the year's best films.
Bridges plays Bad Blake, a penniless 57-year-old country singer who hasn't recorded in years and spends months on the road performing at any venue that will pay him, no matter how small. (It feels like no small irony that for Bridges' character in The Big Lebowski, a bowling alley was a safe haven from the pressures of a conformist world, and here it's a sure sign his career has struck a dead end.) Struggling through even that low-pressure performance thanks to his seemingly endless consumption of whiskey, Blake appeals to his agent for something better. But when he arrives at his next gig, he discovers two surprising new developments: a job as an opener for Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), a big-league country star he once coached, and a new romance with Jean Craddock (Gyllenhaal), a local music writer who falls for him during an interview.