Trent Reznor wrote the song Hurt and performed it with his band, Nine Inch Nails, in 1994, but it came to life only when Johnny Cash covered it in 2002, shortly before his death at the age of 71. There are some songs, some themes, that simply cannot be done justice unless they are lived. Near the end of Crazy Heart, Bad Blake’s finest song is covered by his protégé, Tommy Sweet, but it loses some of its poignancy in someone else’s voice, someone who has not lived it.
This song is the best part of the film.
Maybe that’s because I feel like I have seen Crazy Heart before. Last year, in fact, when it was called The Wrestler. As in that film, this one centers around a man who has fallen from grace and is searching for redemption. Both films feature strong performances by their leads — Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler, Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart. There are other similarities – a single mother with a heart of gold, an addiction, a child left behind — and there are some differences, of course, but generally speaking, I felt like I was watching something I had already seen. Of course, this is not surprising — the story of the search for redemption is one that is as old as time — but it left me disappointed and generally uninterested in what happened to these characters. Bridges’ performance is strong, but should he win the Oscar, I can’t help but feel that it will be more a tribute to his career than to this role. (For what it’s worth, I’d give it to Colin Firth for A Single Man.)
Overall, Crazy Heart struck a flat note.
But the song should win an Oscar.