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Crazy Heart: Bridges Gives Lifetime Performance
Duvall plays the faithful old friend, while Farrell plays Blake’s former student, who’s become a popular country singer and offers Blake an opening slot in his concerts.
The performances by Bridges and Gyllenhaal hold up what is arguably a weak script. The scenes are long and drawn out, and the story moves so slowly that you almost want to turn it off. Bridges and Gyllenhaal were both nominated for Academy Awards, with the former winning Best Actor; they both get the nods they deserve for making a poorly constructed film somewhat enjoyable.
What is most frustrating is the film’s unsurprising storyline; we can see exactly where the story is going from the first half hour. Blake struggles, finds woman, loves woman, cleans up and finds himself. The only cliché that doesn’t work is the ending–which we won’t spoil.
The difference between this and 2008’s The Wrestler is that Crazy Heart fails to engage the viewer in the same manner. There are spans of the film where the story stagnates, but Bridge’s magic saves this from becoming another boring and easily forgotten film.
The high note–and perhaps the film’s only fun aspect–of the two hours of viewing is that Bridges and Farrell actually sing their own songs. This seems to be a growing Hollywood trademark, and it’s always fun to see multi-talented actors ply their trade with a little song.
Overall, Crazy Heart may not be a film that you get excited about, and at times you’ll wish the editing had been better, but the performances hold the film together, and that in itself is worth watching.
The first half focuses far too much on Kelsey and Lynette and not enough on say, Rebecca Hall who plays Alan’s sister Mel. In fact, the film in general is pretty light on Hall and she just randomly drops out of the film without having her arc tied up, even though she’s the most magnetic performer in the whole thing. Canterbury, on the other hand, has far too big a part and while he’s decent as Kelsey, his pouting does become a bit one-note after a while.
The second half is, thankfully, far superior, mainly because Alan and Ben grow out of their immaturity and are forced to make some big decisions that shed some light on their relationship and back story. This is also where Sandvig and Ritter’s chemistry shines. They really nail the old friends dynamic and it stretches and warps as a wedge is driven between them, challenging their entire way of life.
Titled from a popular term which describes the early transfer of a young offender from a juvenile detention facility to an adult penitentiary, Starred Up is by no means an easy watch. However, as much as it is difficult to digest at times, there is a certain poetic beauty behind its seemingly violent and destructive quality that makes it difficult to look away from.
Shot within the walls of an abandoned Belfast prison, the film opens with troubled nineteen-year-old Eric Love (O’Connell) undergoing an embarrassing admittance process, involving a complete body strip down, as he’s transferred into an adult reformatory.
Immediately marked as a “single cell, high risk” type detainee, it doesn’t take long for Eric – whose frequent and violent outbursts got him relocated there in the first place – to stir up trouble and make enemies both with fellow inmates and security guards.
After a mistaken attack on another inmate lands the young delinquent into the disciplinary hands of the law, Eric is soon approached – and rescued – by the in-house therapist, Oliver Braumer (Friend), who believes that he can help the young man rehabilitate.
Unfortunately, getting to the root of Eric’s problems - and getting him to open up - is no easy task and Oliver - together with the other rehabilitating convicts - often find themselves the targets of both verbal and physical abuse. To top it off, Eric has to find a way to learn to share the walls of his new confinements with his estranged father, Nev (Mendelsohn), who is currently serving a life-sentence in the same prison.
Penned by first-time screenwriter Jonathan Asser – a former prison psychotherapist whose own experience with the British penal-system adds a hefty dose of authenticity and realism to the film – Starred Up, told through a series of wordless and violent expositions, is fuelled with gripping intensity which is hard to shake off. Relying on action, rather than words, the uniqueness – and the heart - of the story lies with the father-son narrative, whose bonding difficulties are depicted through the oppressiveness of life in prison.
Contributing to the movie’s relentless and uncompromising approach to despair and violence, O’Connell – mostly known for his role in the British TV-series Skins and recently seen as the lead in Angelina Jolie’s war-drama Unbroken – is an absolute standout; feral and unpredictable, his performance carries the film, while Mendelsohn is equally superb as a man whose persona and motives are seemingly hard to read.
Powerful, emotional but never too sentimental, Starred Up is a true British-prison drama classic whose quietly yielding power and passion for storytelling will leave you feeling captivated and moved.