The funny thing about Crazy Heart is that it seems to go out of its way to defuse any form of actual tension. For example, the first act of the film alludes to the bitter relationship between Bad Blake and Tommy Sweet. Clearly something really terrible must have happened to sour their relationship. Yet when Tommy Sweet finally dares to show his face it becomes apparent that the whole issue is nothing more than a minor squabble. Tommy pretty much attempts to make amends within the first five minutes of being around Blake. There is never that moment where you question Tommy’s motives or loyalties. You never wonder if Bad Blake will ever be able to work with Tommy again. The tension is defused faster than you can blink.
Come to think of it, Crazy Heart is nothing more than a bunch of little moments that always find a way of being wrapped up with a neat little bow. If you eliminate the Tommy Sweet subplot, then all that is left is the Bad Blake’s alcoholism; and how it affects his relationship with Jane. Unfortunately, neither of these subplots can even muster up a faint spark. The whole deadbeat dad arc has been done better in numerous other films. Plus his plight with alcoholism comes off a little too Hallmark movie of the month for my liking. The defining moment that finally sends Bad Blake to rehab is, in my opinion, more a statement about Jane’s parenting than it is about Blake’s addiction to the bottle. I am not making excuses for his actions, I merely saw the moment coming early on based on how the role of Jane is written.
The character of Jane is nothing more than a quick device to get Bad’s character from point A to B. As much I love Maggie Gyllenhaal as an actress, I could not help but wonder why she was cast in this film. Jane is such a poorly constructed character that the role did not fit Gyllenhaal’s style at all. There were moments when I wondered if she was merely channelling her old Sherrybaby character. When Jane is not being forgotten for large chunks of the film, she randomly falls into long stretches where she acts like a naive school girl. It is hard to believe that she is even a journalist at times.
Crazy Heart is not a great film, nor is it a bad film, it is just there. The only thing that keeps Crazy Heart afloat is Jeff Bridge’s performance. Was it Oscar worthy? That is a tough call. He does carry the entire film on his back and is quite good. Yet I can think of at least three other performances from last year that left more of a lasting impression than this.