The Oscar nominees were just recently announced last week amid historic increases in the number of entries in contention for film of the year. It was an unprecedented move, doubling the previous potential winners. This may not seem like an influential move, as many believe a certain film is a lock to win, but it displays the acceptance of a broader range of cinematic styles. The recognition of different films during this year’s Academy Awards really is appropriate if we acknowledge a particular actor in a leading role.
Sometimes and overly used during award season, the stars align and an individual is given the credit they deserve. This may just be the year for one different kind of actor. Jeff Bridges’ embodiment of Bad Blake in Crazy Heart is earnest, unforgiving and downright unforgettable. The film is definitely not treading new territory, but Bridges’ performance transports us into an original and all too real space.
Years ago Bad Blake was a famous country singer/songwriter, headlining tours and sold out concerts, but the notion of that seems distant as the aging artist heads to a bowling alley bar for a performance. He still has loyal fans that, like him, remember the better years, requesting some of his classics. Yet, the passion seems lost for a man deserted by record labels and huge deals, wherein his biggest fan has become a bottle of booze. Blake could come across as a self-medicating has been who shouldn’t get our attention, yet it is the complete opposite. Even with the cliché drunk, aging singer, Bridges is able to not just play the character but also encompass Blake. We feel as if these tragedies are actually real.
If it weren’t for some close personal friends and life encounters, Blake’s life would revolve around the dark, damp corners of the seedy bars. Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal) as a local reporter, questions Blake breaking down the barriers he has put it up and possibly investing in a romance. She is the tender side of Blake that he does not expose and is played beautifully by Gyllenhaal in a nominated supporting role. Robert Duvall plays Blake’s longtime friend, Wayne, and is a refreshing inspiration of what could be for Bad Blake if he sets his aim straight. The assistance of his apprentice, Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), also gives life to the career of Blake, bringing him back to the forefront of the public’s mind.
The journey of Bad Blake is notoriously filled with pitfalls, but first time writer/director Scott Cooper and this great cast, especially Bridges, is able to get their story across without a scratch. I could compare Crazy Heart to last year’s The Wrestler, but the main difference is the addition of well-crafted music and appropriate singing by Bridges. The true emotion of Blake is heard in his singing/songwriting and really transports the viewer into the world. If you are just getting started with your Oscar nominated movies viewings, start with Crazy Heart, you won’t be disappointed and will most likely agree with this being Jeff Bridges’ year.
Mirror Film Criticmark@smmirror.com