My review of the great new Jeff Bridges film, Crazy Heart, which I wrote with a friend shortly after I saw the movie last month, was just posted on the Rabbit Room blog. Here are a couple excerpts:
I’d have to say, though, there was one thing I liked above everything else about the film, and that’s what I want to spend more time talking about here: the glimpse Crazy Heart gives us into the world of music superstars, both at the height of their career and when they’re down on their luck. Working as an arranger and music copyist in the Nashville music industry, I get occasional glimpses into that world. Watching Bad Blake play for a packed house at a corner bar, seeing how he related to the crowd and how he performed, I thought of the time I was in the studio with legendary rock singer Bob Seger.
The first thing that becomes apparent as you watch the story unfold is Bad Blake’s alcohol addiction, and we know from the start that things can’t continue the way they are. Something has to change, a brick wall will be hit. What could be a bigger cliché than a big star hitting rock bottom because of an addiction and then climbing out of the hole, right? In lessor hands, this movie would have made that the focus of the story and subsequently been relegated to late night showings on the Hallmark channel, but Scott Cooper, in his directorial debut, realizes we don’t need another telling of that story, rescuing it from being a series of clichés and telling a genuinely moving story. I couldn’t help but think, towards the end of the story, of another great musician I’ve had the chance to work with, Trey Anastasio (of Phish fame), doing all the music preparation for several of his recent tours. Trey hit bottom several years ago with an arrest for a drug addiction that resulted in him realizing he had to make changes. Since that time, I’ve sat in a studio on Music Row in Nashville, listening to Trey practice with a string quintet a concerto he cowrote for electric guitar and orchestra with a friend of mine, Don Hart. I’ve hung around backstage at Carnegie Hall after a performance of that concerto with the New York Philharmonic. I’ve heard him play with Phish at Bonnaroo in front of 75,000 fans, with none other than Bruce Springsteen joining him for a couple songs.
So I know what redemption looks like in that context. I have seen up close what it means when a rock star realizes they can’t continue on the road they’re on, make changes, and the music they make after that. This movie is the best portrayal I’ve seen of that story on the big screen, and it’s why I’ll continue to recommend it to everyone I know.