Produced by the great Robert Duvall, “Crazy Heart” tells the story of hard-drinking former country star Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges), who refuses to acknowledge that his career as a crooner is kaput. Things are looking bleak for Blake, but a tentative relationship with reporter Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and a chance to open for country mega-star Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell) signal that Blake’s fortunes may be turning. Can Blake overcome his addictions and reignite his country career?
As successful and effective as "Crazy Heart" was, it bears some striking parallels to Duvall’s own “Tender Mercies” from 1983. Let’s see: both feature a drunk, washed-up country singer. Both meet women who inspire them to put the toilet seat down. And they both struggle to figure out whether one can actually live inside a bottle of whiskey.
Yep, pretty darn close. Luckily, as they say, "Close is only good in horseshoes and hand grenades... and movies about alcoholic country singers."
Because in this case, with Bridges at his self-destructive best, and with toe-tappin', shit-kickin' country tunes a-plenty, it's a formula worth repeating. And how’s this for repetitious synergy? Duvall snagged the Best Actor Oscar for “Mercies”; 17 years later, Bridges got one too. Things come full circle.
It’s impressive that Duvall and Bridges each did their own singing, and that Bridges’ warbling helped the song “The Weary Kind” win an Oscar for Best Song. But unbeknownst to most movie lovers, Bridges had dabbled in music prior to his role in “Heart.” In 2000, he released a little-known folk-rock album titled “Be Here Soon.” Later, he followed up his performance in “Crazy Heart” with a self-titled country album that debuted at #25 on the Billboard 200, and #10 on the Top Country Albums chart. Don’t you just hate these great-looking, multi-talented types?
A Challenging Scene
Director Scott Cooper wanted a natural, believable reaction from the crowd during the scene in which Blake opens for Tommy Sweet. Rather than hire a stadium’s worth of extras, Cooper actually filmed those scenes in-between the first and second sets of a Toby Keith concert in Albuquerque. Concertgoers were given a hint that something interesting was in the works when a “special guest” was announced at the outset of the show.
The crowd went wild when Bridges appeared on stage to sing, and Colin Farrell’s appearance only added to the excitement. Although the entire movie was shot in just 24 days, the production crew was especially challenged during these particular scenes – they had a mere ten minutes to shoot that electric concert footage during Toby Keith’s “halftime” break. But they captured the energy and spontaneity of a live performance that the movie needed.
Without A Song
Written by T-Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham, “The Weary Kind” was popular enough to make the country charts. You talk about loyalty – T-Bone Burnett, a music producer and friend of Bridges, reportedly got the job in part because Bridges would only sign on to the film if Burnett was brought in to write songs. Loyalty and respect. And the collaboration continued: Burnett and Bingham would team up again with Bridges for his follow-up album in 2011.
After all, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.