"Crazy Heart" is the story of another such performer: Bad Blake, a country & western singer from the Hank Williams school, long before the more commercial, glitzy acts like Dixie Chicks and Carrie Underwood and so forth. Bad's best days are long behind him. He's 57, broke, an alcoholic with four ex-wives and at least one ex-son.
When we meet Bad he's driving his old Suburban into a bowling alley in Pueblo, New Mexico, where he plays for a dozen or so patrons, mostly older folks. After the set he goes back to the motel wit one of those older folks for a little nightcap.
That pretty much summarizes Bad's life for the last couple of decades. He continues to Santa Fe, where a local reporter named Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal) wants to interview him. Jean has at least one ex-husband and a young son named Buddy. Though she should no better, she can't resist Bad and soon they're doing more than just interviews.
Bad still has some friends in the music business, especially his protege Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell, because who else would you cast to play a country singer but an Irishman?) who wants Bad to write some songs for him--if Bad can sober up long enough to write anything down.
I spent most of the movie waiting for bad things to happen to Bad. There's a car accident and he loses Jean's son in a mall. Other than that, nothing too bad happens to Bad. The movie makes sobering up and turning your life around seems like you could do it in about a week if you feel like it.
I couldn't help thinking of a line from Bret Easton Ellis' new novel Imperial Bedrooms:
He had to be punished for all of his sins. That's what the movie demanded. (Later, as a screenwriter, I learned it's what all movies demanded.)
I think in this case that's certainly what I was demanding. Instead, Bad seems almost rewarded for his lifetime of sins. All we needed was for the son to show up and give him a hug in a tearful reunion. (Is it a spoiler if I tell you what doesn't happen?)
Overall the first 90 minutes or so are good. It's the last 20 or so where it falls down in trying to make redemption seem so easy. I think someone once said nothing worth having is ever won cheaply. That should be especially true for your soul.
That is all.
My score: 75/100 (3 stars)
Metacritic score: 83/100 (3.5 stars)