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Crazy Heart (Blu-ray Review)

19 Apr, 2010 By: Mike Clark

Street 4/20/10
Box Office $38.8 million
$29.98 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for language and brief sexuality.
Stars Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Duvall, Colin Farrell.

After so many years of being undervalued except by the cult-movie fanciers who all but deified him, Jeff Bridges looked like a stylish fashion statement strolling up to take his Crazy Heart Oscar. An especially nice touch was the cool facial hair he’s currently sporting to play Rooster Cogburn in the Coen Brothers coming big-screen reinterpretation of Charles Portis’s True Grit.

And this is saying something because not only does Bridges look like an unmade bed in this tale of a country music has-been’s redemption — but an unmade bed with a flea-bitten blanket thrown over the Ratso Rizzo character Dustin Hoffman played in Midnight Cowboy. As broken-down singer “Bad” Blake, Bridges looks as if his halitosis has halitosis — though the moniker he carries in writer-director Scott Cooper’s script (adapted from Thomas Cobb’s novel) is effective in its hard-consonant directness and simplicity. It hits me like Bick Benedict (the rancher Rock Hudson plays in Giant); Big Wilson (equally well-remembered as a ’60s TV host in Cleveland and a ’70s DJ in New York); and former Cardinals/Phillies outfielder Bake McBride.

But other than its protagonist’s name, Bridges’ not-to-be-minimized performance plus some better than decent and certainly authentic-sounding music that won Ryan Bingham and T-Bone Burnett Oscars as well (for best song “The Weary Kind”), the movie doesn’t have that much juice. Robert Duvall (who plays a Bridges friend here) gave his own Oscar-winning performance as a country artist with demons in 1983’s Tender Mercies, which seemed only a little above the middling level in a movie year when the true standouts included The Right Stuff, The King of Comedy, Fanny & Alexander and Terms of Endearment. And the champion of the genre is still Rip Torn’s booze-‘n’-pills drama Payday, though these days it hits too close to home given Torn’s recent problems with the law.

The movie’s other Oscar-nominated performance is Maggie Gyllenhaal’s as the young and already chapped-by-life reporter and single mom who lands an interview when Bad is trying to make the most of performing in dives on the bowling alley circuit. Of the five supporting actress nominations, hers was the eyebrow-raiser, though once you got by Mo’nique and the two Up in the Air women, 2009 wasn’t especially strong in that category. Gyllenhaal is capable — and in one scene of well-motivated rage, certainly credible — but what isn’t credible is that she would take up with this guy in the first place. At this stage (age 57), Bad’s been had by too many forces of nature.

Bridges, Gyllenhaal and Duvall are talk about their attraction to the project on the Blu-ray, which also has a couple alternate cuts of tunes that the regular DVD doesn’t have. Both versions contain deleted scenes, a higher tally of accoutrements than you’ll find on most home releases of the movies that made Bridges the cult performer he is.

He’s probably been in more cult items than any other actor, and if you put aside The Last Picture Show (a mainstream classic), my five favorites would probably be Tucker: The Man and His Dream, Cutter’s Way, The Fabulous Baker Boys, Rancho Deluxe, and The Iceman Cometh. Thus, it was a kick to see him win the Oscar that once seemed unlikely because he really does elevate the material here. One thing, though: Did I miss it, or did he not mention brother Beau in his thank-you speech? Oh, well, Beau will soon get his own DVD showcase. Director Hal Ashby’s smart and durable The Landlord (1970) is on the new list of MGM library titles that Fox is distributing via its on-demand wing.

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