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Crazy Heart

 

Jeff Bridges should’ve won an Oscar before now, at least once, for John Carpenter’s Starman, in which he brilliantly stripped everything down and rendered human behaviour peculiar and comedic through fledgling alien eyes.

Here he’s stripped down but unabashedly human, flawed, world-weary and beer-addled, a burned-out country star slumming it in dead towns where he has to play up to his dwindling reputation to even get a bottle of Bourbon on the go. He’s not one for rehearsals or playing up to his image as a wizened pro by bestowing a bit of hard-earned wisdom on an upstart. He’s a wreck chasing the next paltry paycheck, at the behest of an agent barking tour info poolside, from a house that Bridges’ drunk wastrel should own but who has either pissed it all away or bought into some bad advice; paint your own profligate back-story.

At one point, he shambles off stage to puke in the parking lot mid-song, and merely getting through a full set on a makeshift stage in a bowling alley is never a given. He goes through the motions, and the inevitable stray groupie, and you can see him ticking along in a cantankerous haze until he conks out on some baking highway on the way to another forgotten, ill-populated shack.

But wait: he finds love in the shape of Maggie Gyllenhaal, a local reporter who gets a scoop via her uncle, who’s just joined the band. That’s not all she gets: she gently jolts Bridges out of doomed autopilot and, with her over-accommodating kid, revitalises him and offers up a pretty unlikely route to salvation.

There are few surprises but the film is great fun in an unassuming way. Gyllenhaal plays another bored girl from a small town and is very good, Robert Duvall is superb in a brief role but the film is basically a Bridges vehicle, giving him the room to flesh out his ailing, grizzly front-man with real depth and grouchily act up a furrow-browed storm. You’d happily trail in the wake of his slouched shamble and mop up the sick-puddles. You smell the cheap aftershave and beer on him, believe every gnarled thing that comes out of his mouth and should thoroughly advocate a long overdue Oscar.

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