Crazy Heart – A Review

In the summer, a friend gave me a token for two months free subscription to Lovefilm, a movie rental service.  Because I knew I would be away from home a fair bit in September and October, I delayed until now to activate it, but now I’m up and running.

Usually I’m fatalistic about which films I see: I go to the cinema when I can, I watch films on the television when they appear, I watch what’s available on planes.  This has generally meant I’ve seen some several times, while, at the same time, there are some startling holes in my viewing.  I do own some movie DVDs, but borrowing them has never been something I’ve felt compelled to do.  So my two month experiment with Lovefilm may change my behaviour; we’ll see.

I’m going to try to use the subscription to see as many films that I’ve ‘missed’ as I can.  Of course remembering the names of the things I thought I might like to see, but which I missed, is proving problematic, and you may be unsurprised to learn that the sort of films that the website is pushing as the ‘most borrowed’  don’t appeal to me much.  This means that I’ve had to search by actors and directors name to find some that do.  I’ve been having those, ‘you know it was that actor who was in that other thing, but in this one, he’s got red hair; you know, whathisname’. conversations.

I quite like the roulette approach of drawing up a list and then taking a chance on what they send to you next.  So, my first two movies were ‘Crazy Heart’ and ‘Hereafter’.  Interestingly I would give them both the same summary review: the stories weren’t very strong, but a couple of the performances were good and the look of the film made quite an impression on me.

In ‘Crazy Heart’ Jeff Bridges plays a washed up country music singer, facing his last chance to get out of a drunken rut, to find love and to write one last good song.  It’s a great relaxed performance from Jeff Bridges, but if the character really is that washed up and frankly, that old, how on earth does he get Maggie Gyllenhaal into bed?  That stretched credibility a bit too far.  I’d have been much more interested in seeing a development of the relationship between the old timer and his former protégée, played by Colin Farrell. which felt like e a wasted opportunity in the film.

The beginning of the movie is dark, and was quite hard to see on my screen (until I closed the curtains); it’s all in poorly lit bars and bowling alleys, or shabby motel rooms lit by underpowered table lamps. Add to that Jeff Bridges’ mumbling, and I had to concentrate quite hard to get what was going on.  Now concentration is not something I’m against, but if I give it, I want to be rewarded with something substantial to chew on.

As the Maggie Gyllenhaal character offers love and the prospect of something better, the whole film lightens up, scenes take place outside in the sunshine, and Jeff speaks more clearly; so it’s a pity that all that is revealed is the thinness of the story.  Suffice to say, everything turns out all right in the end.

The most interesting thing about ‘Hereafter’ was also the visual style of the film.  Three parallel stories, linked only by a close connection with death or near death until the final chapter, unfold in three different countries and three different cinematic styles.

French scenes have the artfulness I always associate with French movies, beautifully tousled hair on the female lead, book lined homes and sleek minimalist offices to stage a philosophical discussion; the London sections are starkly lit there are rubbish and gangs of youths in the street, and the characters are struggling against cold poverty and drug addiction.  The American scenes are lushly lit; event though it’s a ‘blue collar’ environment, it’s glossy, with failed romance at its heart.

Now I’m waiting to see what they send me next!

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