Crazy Heart (2009)

Rated: R for language and brief sexuality.
Length: 112 minutes
Grade: CDBC=C+
Budget: $7 million
Box Office: $59 million (39 U.S., 7 Intl., 13 DVD)

Written and Directed by: Scott Cooper (For Sale by Owner), based on the novel by Thomas Cobb.
Starring: Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal
With: Colin Farrell and Robert Duvall

An extremely talented old-time country star is now a has-been drunk. As he meanders through a life of drinking whiskey and performing at bowling alleys, he tries to form relationships and come to grips with the tremendous success of one of his protégés.

Entertainment Value: C
I went in expecting great things from this movie, which seemed to be getting tremendous reviews from everyone. In the end, however, it was mostly just frustrating and painful to watch. But I suppose that’s the point. This is intended to be a morality play about alcohol, squandered talent, and foolish single mothers as far as I can tell, and I guess it works for that. But mostly it’s just sad. And when it’s not being sad, it’s being downright disturbing. One thing I did really appreciate, however, is that in the end everything doesn’t just work out to be rosy and happy. So many movies can only bear to show bad things by having it all turn out in the end, and I like that this movie didn’t do that.

Superficial Content: C
Drugs/Alcohol F, Sex/Nudity C, Violence C, Language D
This is rightly R rated, and only for adults. There is no nudity, gratefully, and I suppose the portrayals of sex are pretty moderate. But the entire movie is full of moderate to strong profanity from the beginning and, of course, drunkenness is the key plot element. There is one fairly bad car wreck and a scene of danger to a young child. Adults only.

Significant Content: B
Alcoholism makes you a terrible and irresponsible person. It’s a tremendous shame to squander talent other people would probably kill to have. It’s never too late to try to rectify the mistakes you’ve made, but sometimes other people will not allow you to do that, which is their prerogative. It often takes a catastrophe and real tragedy to give people enough of a system shock to realize they have to change. Don’t base your relationships on a hope for the best, but on a realistic assessment of what’s likely.

Artistic/Thought Value: C
What I really wonder about this movie is whether it will have any real impact on the people who are likely to need to watch it or if it’s just a kind of misery voyeurism for the rest of us who like to think that supporting this is a way of solving some problems afflicting others. I personally hated the scene with the bar and the boy, because as a parent I have no interest in seeing anything like that happen. On the bright side, however, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Farrell and Bridges did their own singing. Impressive.

Discussion Questions:
~Jean claims to have “known” Bad was bad for her, but still pursued a relationship with him. If she did really “know” this, why did she do so? If she wasn’t so sure, why does she talk about it this way? If things had worked out, would she have said she knew he’d change for her? Have you ever pursued something or someone that you really knew was a bad thing? Why did you? What do you think of her decision to entrust her son to Bad for the day? What do you think of her ultimate decision?
~If Bad could reasonably know that alcoholism was causing his talent to be squandered, would this be an additional sin to that of merely being drunk? How big a sin is it to squander talent?
~Do you think this movie would have a useful influence on alcoholics? What about on single mothers?
~What do you think is the meaning of the title?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~The mall scene. Who do you blame for what happens: Bad or Jean?
~Tommy and Bad talking in the restaurant booth. Why does Bad have so much difficulty with Tommy? Is Tommy at all to blame, or does he behave uprightly?
~Bad composing a song in the bed.
~Bad calling his son for the first time. What do you make of the results? What do you think of his discussion with Wayne out fishing? Is it ever too late to reconcile some relationships?

Overall Grade: C+
A tremendous acting performance by Jeff Bridges in an otherwise mopey and disappointingly average movie about alcoholism and country music. Bridges certainly deserved the best actor Oscar.

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