Rudy Regehr reflects on Crazy Heart and its relevance to Theology in the Dark
his is the second outing to take place under the Theology in the Dark moniker. It’s a little later in the year than some of us would have liked for this to take place, I’m sure, but it seems it was meaningful for many who were along for the viewing and discussion. Crazy Heart is actually based on a book of the same name. This is something I didn’t know until it was mentioned in the ensuing discussion. I’m not sure I’ll ever read that book. I don’t know that I need to. Having seen this movie now, it’s very clear why Jeff Bridges won his first ever acting Oscar for the role. For 111 minutes, Bridges becomes Blake and embodies all the characteristics about Blake that are so heartbreaking and truly drive this story.
When the movie opens we are given very subtle clues about the character we are about to meet. A beat up Chevy Suburban wanders lonely down an American highway, traffic busy in the oncoming lanes but no other vehicles accompanying the truck. There are several very beautiful and inspirational shots as the truck gradually makes its way to the next destination. We see the beauty of a sunset, one backdrop for this truck’s journey. When the truck finally arrives where it was heading, out steps Blake…cursing his manager as he realizes he’s been booked at a bowling alley for his next gig.
Throughout the movie we find out more about Blake; his failed marriages, his inability to properly relate to other human beings, and the career that just didn’t go the way he expected. Blake is a sick man, but it’s not the kind of sickness that can necessarily be cured with conventional medicine. Even the alcohol that Blake self-medicates with and is clearly addicted to does not bear any true help for him. He does have 1 true friend, but this is the kind of friend who recognizes that he cannot force Blake to seek the help that he needs or make the changes that would save him. We soon learn about a mysterious other artist that is somehow associated with Blake. That young man is Tommy Sweet (played by Colin Farrell).
Perhaps because of the pain of knowing that, for some reason, Sweet’s career took off and Blake’s didn’t, Bad Blake wants nothing to do with him. However, Blake starts to reconsider everything he has come to believe when he begins to fall in love with Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhall), the young journalist in Santa Fe who interviews Blake for the tiny newspaper she works for. Craddock quickly becomes the ray of sunshine that Blake longs to see more and more frequently. However, Blake continues to drink. In fact, it seems nothing will put the derailed train that is Bad Blake back on the tracks until a nearly tragic event causes him to hit rock bottom and finally decide that enough is enough. But is Blake making the change for the right reasons and will it last?
There’s no question that Crazy Heart is a story rich with meaning, lessons and heartbreak. But there’s no telling what kind of movie this would have been without the very authentic soundtrack co-written by the great T-Bone Burnett. At some points the music even becomes another character. It leaves us with a lasting impression and helps convey what spoken lines or dramatic situations may not be able to. Even long after the movie was over I couldn’t help but hum the film’s main theme to myself.
The discussion that took place at Boston Pizza after the movie was alive with different perspectives on the story. One thing became clear: there are a number of people from different walks of life that can see this movie and be invested in the story on their own level. Several of us had known those who had addictions and have had struggles similar to those we saw on the screen. It almost seemed as though the life portrayed by Bridges was all too real for some in attendance. We remarked about the various real-life artists Blake may have been based on, but there was also some discussion of some familiar characters that Blake reminded some of us about; people like King David and Solomon. It’s a reminder that Scripture isn’t just a collection of ancient tales. Much of it is composed of stories that portray timeless truths.
*You can find a review of the first session in this series, when a group went to see the film Invictus, by clicking here.