Wednesday, March 3, 2010
I don't see many movies at the theater, but I knew when I saw this preview that I'd like Crazy Heart. We saw it last night. It's a very good movie, with a great performance by Jeff Bridges and a powerful story, but I think CB fans might appreciate those early scenes of a fallen star and songwriter working with local pickup bands on a tough circuit of small bars and bowling alleys to keep his career going. Chuck Berry never got this low, but what I admire about him is how he kept working through thick and thin and up and down-- and how, when he found the right musicians on that stage, he'd pull musical rabbits from his hat. In 1971 I saw him play a sad show with an uninspired group of musicians to a small crowd. I loved it-- but part of the power was the hurt in his eyes looking out into an empty hall. Then, a few months later, a great band of local musicians and a small town audience bursting the seams of a former grocery store in a show that kept going and going until it wore me out. In the opening scenes of Crazy Heart Bad Blake plays to a dozen or so folks at a bowling alley lounge. The backup band is made up of game young guys. No rehearsal. He whispers chord changes as the song opens: Wing it, boys. Drunk, he barely makes it through the show. Then he stumbles into another bar and finds middle aged Wesley playing good piano and sits down to jam in the afternoon. "It's been a long time since I've worked with a good piano player," he says, grinning. The details are all wonderful. The musicians are real. The guitars are scratched and worn and loved. There's a scene oddly reminiscent of "Hail! Hail!" about a beloved amp and sound and a stand off with the man at the controls. (In Crazy Heart victory is complete when the man relents.) There's something amazing to me about the itinerant musician struggling to make a living despite massive talent. It's only the opening to the human tale that follows-- but unlike most music movies, Crazy Heart seems to get it right. Go see it.