Jeff Bridges has been steadily rolling on screen for so long that it’s easy to overlook him or simply forget the numerous stops along the way. But he’s back again, and Country singer-songwriter Bad Blake (Bridges) in rookie director Scott Cooper’s Crazy Heart is poised to be the destination of distinction.
Blake is a force of nature, but not a sweeping horror of mass destruction and carnage. No, he’s a lone loose twister on an abandoned prairie with nothing in its way.
We’re privy to this display because Cooper’s effort feels like that of a storm tracker who has isolated this singular event for study. And yet at that key moment, all of a sudden something — in this case, a small-town journalist (Maggie Gyllenhaal) with a young child — stumbles into the path.
Life on the back roads has wearied Blake, but it’s the only life he knows, so he trudges on, singing in bowling alleys, sometimes leaving the stage to puke away the night’s take. Country music is his heart and soul — the lonesome tales of bad choices and worse consequences — and Bridges, performing onstage like a guitar-slinging road warrior, takes us down the dark alleyways and makes us pray for the light at the end of the road.
The narrative, like many of this year’s prestige projects, doesn’t turn any new tricks. Crazy Heart will remind many of The Wrestler, a career summation for Mickey Rourke, another longstanding performer. These characters are seeking redemption after hard journeys, made worse due to their own efforts and bad choices. But the difference here is that Bad Blake’s train finally reaches the station, and it’s also fitting that Bridges will likely earn his long-awaited Oscar for this journey. Grade: B+