‘Crazy Heart’ uncannily similar to ‘The Wrestler’

David Wiens / Washburn Review

Skimming the show times for the weekend, the week’s new releases only confirmed what I had been thinking already, that I had been putting off seeing “Crazy Heart” for long enough.

Although I have yet to see a Jeff Bridges performance I have not liked, the idea of seeing a movie about a guy playing country music was in strong opposition to my usual tastes. After a lot of back-and-forth and a quick listen to the samples on Amazon.com, I caved.

Bridges establishes Bad Blake’s entire character in the first 30 seconds of the film as he stumbles out of an old pickup truck with his pants unbuckled and empties his piss bottle on the parking lot before walking into his next gig. Blake’s career is dragging, and has been for some time, just on the edge of failure to the point where he’s performing at a bowling alley (which contains no allusions to Lebowski, unfortunately). Blake meanders about for a while, making his drinking problem painfully obvious and complaining to his manager about his lack of a record deal with his former protege` Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell).

Along his tour Blake is introduced to a local reporter named Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who asks all of three or four questions before they run out of time. Blake, somewhat intrigued, or perhaps just beguiled, by Craddock’s interest, gives her a second interview . . . and sleeps with her before they part ways.

After reluctantly opening for his former student, Sweet, an intoxicated Blake decides to leave the show early and drive his truck off the road. Half crippled, Blake stays with Craddock and her 4-year-old son, both of which he comes to love, then reluctantly heads back home. Bad Blake, inspired by Jean, makes contact with his long-lost-son and finally begins to write new songs after an untold number of years that he can sell to Sweet in exchange for doing a duet album. But after a few dire mistakes Blake makes while drinking, he loses his new lady love and reluctantly sobers up.

Overall, I think that “Crazy Heart” would have seemed a lot better if “The Wrestler” hadn’t come out around this time last year. For anyone who’s seen both, the similarities are just a little too obvious to ignore; a washed-up performer with an estranged child and a substance abuse problem whose life changes when he meets a younger woman with problems of her own. “Crazy Heart” is a good movie, but a little hard to get behind if you have seen “The Wrestler” already.