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Thursday, Feb. 4, 2010 05:16 am

Bridges takes center stage in Crazy Heart

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Jeff Bridges plays Bad Blake, a famous singer who has hit bottom in Crazy Heart.

Country singer Bad Blake has given up trying to deal with all of the disappointments in his life. You can tell by the way he carries himself, what with his unkempt hair and dirty clothes. But it’s the fact that he often appears with his belt undone and pants loosened that tells us all we need to know. If there was ever a sign of throwing in the towel, this is it.

This is one of the many small touches Jeff Bridges employs as Blake in Crazy Heart, a fine film that’s buoyed by an unquestionably great performance. We’ve been down this self-destructive road before, but Bridges makes taking the journey again worthwhile. Each and every mistake Blake has made is written on the actor’s face and is present in the weary shuffle he employs. Once a chart-topper, the singer is reduced to playing bowling alleys and seedy bars, that is if he can make it through his set without throwing up. Blake’s pride, no matter how battered, keeps him traveling from one dive to the next, singing the hard-living songs he’s not only written but also lived.

It goes without saying that a shot at a comeback will come Blake’s way as well as another chance at love, this time with a reporter (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who is enamored more with his legend than his behavior. Though I didn’t buy the film’s love affair, the two leads play it with enough sincerity to make us overlook the improbability of it. Once Robert Duvall appears as Blake’s confidant, comparisons to Tender Mercies are inescapable. Thankfully, Heart stacks up favorably to that film, taking a subtle, powerful approach to this tale of one man’s long journey back from the dark side of himself. Bridges pulls off the difficult task of avoiding the pitfalls that comes from taking on a stereotype and giving it a sense of humanity and resonance. Heart’s story may break no new ground, but Bridges’ performance is one for the ages.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org

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