JEFF Bridges seems destined, undeservedly, to win the Academy Award as Best Actor In A Leading Role for his turn as a washed up country and western singer, who lives by the bottle.

Written and directed by Scott Hooper, Crazy Heart is this year’s The Wrestler, following a self-destructive has-been on the slow and painful road to redemption.

The leading man’s portrayal of a drunkard, who vomits profusely before a concert at a bowling alley and has to rescue his fallen spectacles from the steaming mess, doesn’t earn our sympathy with ease.

Bridges’ character brings suffering upon himself and the people around him, and in one of the film’s pivotal sequences, he manages to lose a young child in his care because he is tempted by the promise of a cheeky afternoon drink.

Yet through an unlikely romance, we are able to glimpse the tenderness and sadness in this pitiful man, and will him to complete a stint in rehab.

Fifty seven years old, and still touring rundown motels, Bad Blake (Bridges) is a shadow of his former self.

Constantly inebriated, and liable to throw up at the moment he is due to take to the makeshift stage, he strums and sings with bloodshot eyes to his loyal fans.

Before one performance, newspaper reporter Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal) interviews Bad, and piques his interest.

“I want to talk about how bad you make this room look,” he grins, plying a surprisingly good chat-up line.

Sexual chemistry between the pair is palpable but Jean is extremely wary of the sozzled celebrity: She has a young son, Buddy (Jack Nation), to protect, and she cannot let men gatecrash her life.

“Do me a favour – don’t drink in front of him,” she tells Bad.

The singer gets under her skin, and she opens her heart to the possibility of love, but she must compete with his love for Jack Daniels and the allure of a potential comeback with former protege Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell).

Crazy Heart hinges on the spark between Bridges and Gyllenhaal, and the two actors generate plenty of heat as their characters blunder through a romance that depends entirely on Bad’s sobriety.

Bridges delivers a compelling performance as a talented songwriter who has almost supped away his talent, and he is matched by Gyllenhaal’s emotionally raw portrayal of a lonely woman, heading for the kind of heartache that would inspire Bad to write one of his songs.