- Jeff Bridges delivers a terrific performance as a boozy, one time country music star Bad Blake in Crazy Heart; Robert Duvall wins an Oscar for best actor in 1983 for his performance as Mac Sledge, a boozy, one time country music star in Tender Mercies.
- The male leads in both films meet solid, stable women who are characters trying to redeem them, to offer them a second (or fifth, or more) chance at love.
- The women in both films have sons, close to the same age, and they bond with the new men in their mother's live.
- Both Bad Blake and Mac have estranged children they have no real relationship with.
- Did I mention they are washed up country singers who have a problem with the drink?
- Robert Duvall is not only in both films, he produced both films as well.
- Being interviewed by a journalist features prominently in both films. In Crazy Heart, it's how Bad Blake meets the woman he falls for; in Tender Mercies, it's how Mac Sledge gets back in touch with ex-wife and daughter.
- Both singers are forced to play concerts with younger musicians as the back-up band. These scenes feature prominently in both films.
- Country songs are featured in both films--often entire songs are sung from the stage.
- Both Bad Blake and Mac Sledge are shown writing songs alone and then letting other people have the songs to record in an attempt to get money into their thin bank accounts.
Are ten things enough to prove the connection? Maybe I'm missing something but I've rarely even seen any mention of Tender Mercies when people are talking about Crazy Heart. It is as clear as day that the latter is at the very least, extremely influenced by Tender Mercies.
I think Tender Mercies is the better of the two films. It's less of a show-off in its lead role and has a simple, direct, honest quality to it that has drawn me back to watch it four times. Crazy Heart is flawed after the first hour and the ending is flat out awful. Tender Mercies vs. Crazy Heart? I'll take Tender Mercies over its inferior copycat.