Starring: Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell
Directed by: Scott Cooper (debut)
Written by: Scott Cooper (debut)

Place an entire narrative on the shoulders of four-time Academy Award nominated actor Jeff Bridges (“The Last Picture Show”) and good things are bound to happen, especially if you ask him to sing, too.

Despite a fairly safe and conventional screenplay by first time director and writer Scott Cooper, the music drama “Crazy Heart” is Bridges’ closet shot to winning Oscar gold since earning his last nom for his supporting role in 2001’s “The Contender.”

While “Crazy Heart” is rich with familiar themes, Bridges doesn’t disappoint. He stars as “Bad” Blake, a down-on-his-luck country and western singer who finds himself in the twilight of his career fighting to stay a significant part of the music industry he helped build.

All the gigs Bad can book, however, are in small-town bowling alleys, run-down watering holes, and places where his fan base – although faithful – isn’t as significant as it once was during his glory days. Years of alcoholism have taken their toll on Bad, who is now flat broke. His agent want him to sit down and write new material, but Bad’s just not interested in writing songs for other performers anymore. This includes working with his former protégé Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), a young and popular singer who epitomizes the new generation of country music.

Instead, Bad seems comfortable doing his touring across the Southwest in his 1978 Chevy suburban, staying at ratty motels and drinking the cheapest whiskey he can find. When Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a Santa Fe reporter, asks for an interview during one of his tour stops in New Mexico, Bad agrees and is immediately stunned by how much he likes the young writer. Jean, too, is oddly drawn to the Merle Haggard-type star as he tries to sober up and kick-start his life and career.

Adapted from a novel of the same name by Thomas Cobb, “Crazy Heart” – as cliché as it sounds – actually feels like the cinematic version of a country song. All the ingredients are there from love to heartbreak to redemption and Cooper follows the recipe without burning the biscuits (Bad’s specialty in the kitchen). Sure, a few bites may be a bit dry, but Bridges is riding a gravy train.

As Bad, he gives an effortless performance as a man who wants a second chance to do something memorable with the talent he has. As we watch Bad fiddle with his guitar throughout the film (pieces of the Ryan Bingham/T-Bone Burnett-written “The Weary Kind” can be heard), it’s evident that there is something amazing waiting to be revealed before it’s all said and done.

Whether he’s on stage singing songs from the film’s exceptional soundtrack (“The Weary Kind” is Oscar bound) or holding a sweet conversation with Jean’s little boy, Bridges knows no bounds when providing us with his subtle and sensitive character. “Crazy Heart” is his latest dream role and we’re all singing his praises.

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