Playing like a country-western version of The Wrestler, the new Jeff Bridges Oscar showcase Crazy Heart plums familiar territory with a gentle touch of humor and humanity. Bridges stars as Bad Blake, a 57 year old country western singer who only achieved marginal success in the genre, unlike his fast-rising protege Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell). Bad Blake is forced to tour dead-end bars and bowling alleys, and his depressing life is tempered somewhat by a steady stream of whisky and groupies. Then Blake meets Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a single mother and writer that captures his heart. Things will not be easy between them, however. Much has been made of Bridges' performance as Blake, a role that has won him a Best Actor nomination that he will likely take. Bridges is very good, but the role and the performance isn't much different from many of the roles that have defined his career. His Bad Blake character is essentially an alcoholic, country-western version of The Dude. Bridges does laid back very well, but fortunately this role allows him to take that character into darker and more pathetic areas. He's matched very well by Gyllenhaal in her best performance since Secretary. Gyllenhaal exudes an honesty in the role, and she also adds subtle layers of conflict as her character engages in a difficult and questionable relationship with Blake. I thought many of her scenes were perfect, and I say this as someone who hasn't really warmed up to Gyllenhaal in the past. It's often difficult to make a successful music-based drama because the songs are often not up to par, but the songs provided by Steven Bruton and T -Bone Burnett are very good and believable country-western songs. Bridges does an excellent job of selling his singing, and he looks like an authentic western singer. I kept thinking that Bridges looked like some sort of cross between Kris Kristofferson, Kenny Rogers, and The Dude, which isn't all that bad.Director Scott Cooper wisely keeps the film unadorned and simple, his camera trained tightly on his actors. There sin't much here that hasn't been told before in countless "hard life on the road" music-based dramas, but the compelling performances and truthful writing make for a thoughtful, introspective experience. Crazy Heart is released in the U.K. on March 5th.