Crazy Heart

Rated 4.0

This small, amiably grungy indie flick, now with its Oscar-nominated performances (Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal), reportedly almost went straight to video. And its somewhat hesitant mixture of sad love story and cautionary tale does at times smack of feel-good redemptive drama in the made-for-TV mode. But a very good cast and a bristlingly unsentimental sense of the honky-tonk blues make Crazy Heart a worthy and honorable entry in a small but lively sub-genre, the sweet and salty country-western backstage soap opera. Bridges is a raggedly leonine force in the central role, perfectly convincing with both the over-the-hill wild-man side of fading country-western singer “Bad” Blake and the grizzled alcoholic staggering half-blindly toward some kind of saving grace. The lynch-pin character in all this is the journalist and single mom Jean (Gyllenhaal) with whom Blake finds some fitfully intense romance. Gyllenhaal is excellent in evoking the variously conflicted emotions that prove essential to a story whose most dramatic illuminations arise from falling out of love even more than from falling in. Feather River Cinemas, Paradise Cinema 7 and Tinseltown. Rated R