Director: Scott Cooper Link: IMDB Whenever anyone says the name Jeff Bridges the first thing I always think about is the Dude from The Big Lebowski. Bridges has given a number of captivating performances over the past few decades (He’s been nominated for an Academy Award four times, but has never won.), but none are as memorable as the one where he portrays the lazy, j-smoking, White Russian-slurping bowlaholic who only wants his rug back. (It really tied the room together, man.) The Coen brothers deserve all the credit in the world for bringing this unique and hilarious character to the screen, but it’s Bridges who makes the carefree deadbeat a living and breathing person. As you watch Bridges as Jeffrey Lebowski you completely forget that he’s just an actor doing his job. With Bridges’ performance it’s easy to believe there is an actual Dude roaming the streets, and when you think about it, who wouldn’t want to spend a night with this guy tipping back a few drinks and bowling a few frames? What Bridges did with the Lebowski character is simply amazing, and it appears he has caught lightning in a bottle once again with his turn as a boozed up, chain-smoking, has-been country music star in director/writer Scott Cooper’s Crazy Heart. Bridges delivers one of the most natural performances in years as the 57-year-old Bad Blake, a former country legend who now makes a living playing his old hits in bowling alleys and second-rate taverns. (Blake was once on top of the world, but now he only has $10 in his pocket.) There are many layers to Bridges’ astounding performance, but what sticks out the most is his ability to capture the perfect mixture of pathos and humor. Bridges is no stranger to comedy, and you’ll find yourself laughing on more than a few occasions as Blake interacts with his fans and goes through his everyday life. To say Blake is an unkempt slob would be putting in lightly (You could almost mistake him for that famous mug shot photo of Nick Nolte.), and it’s impossible not to chuckle as he walks around with his belt and the top button of his pants unbuckled. But as humorous as Blake can be, he is also a tragic personality who you can’t help but feel sorry for. Blake is so broken down and old that he stumbles around like a former NFL running back who spent his punishing career between the tackles, and it’s heartbreaking to watch him drown all of his sorrows with the bottle. (He probably has more alcohol pumping through his heart than blood.) However, what might be the most surprising aspect of Bridges’ performance is the way he commands the stage. His vocal talents are downright impressive and there are times when you’ll have to rub your eyes just to make sure you’re not watching an actual country singer on the screen. (I absolutely loath country music but even I couldn’t stop myself from tapping my toes to the original songs created by T Bone Burnett and the late Stephen Bruton.) But as much as I thoroughly enjoyed certain elements of Crazy Heart, the same cannot be said about Cooper’s script, which is an adaptation of Thomas Cobb’s novel of the same name. A movie about a musician battling his or her personal demons isn’t something entirely fresh (this specific genre has been done so many times before it was spoofed in 2007’s Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story), and the story doesn’t really pack any surprises. And things get even more predictable when Blake meets up with Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a journalist who wants to learn more about the man behind the music. Jean, a single mother, falls in love with the troubled Blake and, of course, the feelings are reciprocated. I don’t know if it was the age difference, but I just couldn’t buy Blake and Jean as a couple. They just lacked that particular spark that is essential to make a relationship believable, and the film definitely suffers from that lack of chemistry. (Although the tender moments that Blake shares with Jean’s young son are touching.) But ultimately what Crazy Heart will always be remembered for is the genuine and poignant performance from Bridges, who should be rewarded with an Oscar nomination in a couple of weeks. Who knows? Maybe the fifth time will be the charm. It’s been long overdue. Rating: 7/10