Crazy HeartIn a career filled with unforced, naturalistic performances, Jeff Bridges gives one of his finest in Crazy Heart. His oft-married, booze-soaked troubadour Bad Blake has just rolled into Santa Fe when he meets Maggie Gyllenhaal's journalist Jean. "Where do all the songs come from?" she asks during their initial encounter. "Life, unfortunately", he sighs. Against Jean's better judgement, her fling with Blake blooms into a full-fledged relationship. Between gigs, Blake hangs out with the divorcée and her 4-year-old son, with whom he establishes an instant rapport,... possibly because the musician is just an overgrown kid himself (and also because he hasn't seen his own boy in years). While Blake plays juke joints, his protégé, Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell, cast against type to fine effect), plays stadiums, but just when director Scott Cooper's debut seems to be going down the same path as A Star Is Born, Sweet offers his mentor an opportunity that could revive his reputation--at the expense of his still-healthy ego. Between Jean and Tommy, things start looking up for Blake until a critical error puts his stab at redemption in jeopardy. Once Robert Duvall enters the scene as Blake's favourite bartender, it's clear that Cooper has Tender Mercies in his sights, but Crazy Heart, which features music by T-Bone Burnett and rough-hewn singing by its Golden Globe-winning star, plays more like a sincere cover version than a strikingly original composition. Still, like Duvall's in Tender Mercies, Bridges's performance is Oscar-worthy. --Kathleen C. FennessyWalk The LineCharting the life stories of both legendary musician Johnny Cash and singer June Carter, Walk The Line has proven to be among the most popular music biopics of all time. And with good reason. Spearheaded by two superb performances (which well come to shortly), the films main focus is on Cash himself, from his childhood, early successes, eventual troubles through to the legendary concert of Folsom Prison. His journey also takes in drug problems, the tragedy that haunted him and bumpy relationships with the women in his life. Throughout, of course, theres Cashs enviable body of musical work, which not only helps provide markers for his story, but makes for an excellent soundtrack to the movie as a whole. As a film, Walk The Line is resolutely formulaic, with a structure thatll be familiar to anyone who regularly watches biopics of this ilk. What really helps this one stand tall though are Joaquin Pheonix and Reese Witherspoon. Pheonix is utterly compelling in the lead role, while Witherspoon is back on the form she displayed back in the days of Election. James Mangolds direction is fine and uncluttered, and while his film clearly chooses which elements of Cashs life to focus on (theres certainly far more to know than you get in the two and a quarter hours here), it works extremely well as an entry point into the life story of a great musician. Even the casual viewer will get a lot from Walk The Line, and it may even compel them to expand their CD collection off the back of it.--Simon Brew [show more]
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Double bill of music-based dramas. 'Crazy Heart' (2009) stars Jeff Bridges as burned-out country singer Bad Blake. Blake has lived his life hard, fast and recklessly. With several marriages in tatters behind him and too many years spent drinking one more for the road, his life has become a parody of the bittersweet songs on which his once-promising career was built. When divorced journalist Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal) persuades the reluctant singer to give her an interview, a relationship develops between the two that gives Blake one last chance for redemption. 'Walk the Line' (2005) is a biopic of the legendary musician Johnny Cash. The movie begins in 1955, when a tough, skinny guitar-slinger who calls himself J.R. Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) walks into the soon-to-be-famous Sun Studios in Memphis. With his driving freight-train chords, steel-eyed intensity and a voice as deep and black as night, Cash sang blistering songs of heartache and survival that were gutsy, full of life and unlike anything heard before. Follow the most volatile period of his life, as he evolves from a self-destructive pop star into the iconic 'Man in Black', aided by the love of fellow musician June Carter (Reese Witherspoon).