January 5, 2010
You can't help but love that Jeff Bridges
Crazy Heart is a small, simple movie about people you've seen before in lots of other movies--an alcoholic country singer past his prime, a woman who's been through hell but is willing to take a chance on him, and a straight-shooting Texan played by Robert Duvall. It's a formula you've seen a lot of times before, but you've heard lots of versions of "Your Cheatin' Heart", too.
It's easy to compare the story and its style to other movies, especially The Wrestler and Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The main character's very listenable songs were written by T-Bone Burnett, who also did the music for O Brother Where Art Thou?, and one of the musicians in the movie who co-wrote the theme song is named Ryan Bingham, the same name as George Clooney's character in Up in the Air.
I bet Clooney and Jeff Bridges are going to be the top contenders for an Oscar this year, but Bridges is probably going to get it. Last year, the race was basically between Sean Penn and Mickey Rourke, and because both performances were great, and because Mickey Rourke pissed off a lot of people in Hollywood for the past 20 years, it went to Sean Penn. This year, Jeff Bridges gives a similarly fantastic performance of a really similar character, but everyone loves Jeff Bridges, and he's been nominated four times already and never won. So I think he's got it.
Politics aside, he deserves an Oscar for this. This is a role and a movie that could spill over into sappy, self-pitying melodrama, like bad country music does, but it stays honest and wistful and a little bit reserved, like good country music. He does all his own singing (as does Colin Farrell) and guitar playing. He also spends the majority of the movie with his pants partially unbuttoned, which tells you pretty much everything you need to know about his character.
The Times did a good article about how Crazy Heart almost didn't get released this year. The story has a lot of similarities to Slumdog Millionaire, last year's surprise hit and big Oscar winner. It was only toward the end of 2009 that Fox Searchlight bought Crazy Heart from Viacom, which produced it through Country Music Television but was going to release it straight to cable or video. Fox originally planned to wait until 2010 to release it in theaters, and only decided to do it in 2009 a couple of months ago.
So far, Jeff Bridges has been nominated for a Golden Globe, and the theme song got a nomination as well. Both will probably get Oscar nominations, too, and the movie should get a much wider release. It's an accessible, not-too-cheesy movie about a rough but lovable country singer, so I could see it doing well. One of the movie's producers says he hopes it "has legs in a part of the country that is typically underserved by Hollywood," i.e. country fans in middle America who might not go nuts for a movie whose hero is an antisocial jerk who flies around the country blithely firing people from their jobs.
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