Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Ethan Hawke gives a career performance as legendary jazz musician Chet Baker in the new biopic, Born to Be Blue (opening today). The movie takes certain stylistic liberties in its re-telling, focusing on Chet's musical comeback in the late 1960s after battling a drug addiction, some jail time and several relationship woes along the way.
Hawke quickly makes you forget that he's Ethan Hawke, and takes over the mantle of Baker, known now as one of the best and most influential jazz trumpeters in American history. He played with the likes of Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie, and his odd-charm and good- looks even landed him a few Hollywood roles. But his demons were too numerous to overcome, and like many genius artists though, they were integral to his style.
Writer/Director Robert Budreau understands his subject and gives an intimate portrayal of his many flaws. Like many biopics, the music is of course on display, but Budreau does a good job of infusing the meaning of these soulful classics into the story. Many of Baker's tunes were extensions of his experience, but this is a film that lingers longer on the man as opposed to on his music, although a few musical interludes are woven in that reveal to us the man in the middle.
The film feels a bit slow at times, and sort of drifts along with a sleepy and introspective tone. Jazz of course, is a free-form art-form that relishes on the unexpected, and that, sadly, is where Born to Be Blue hits the wrong note. There aren't too many surprises in this one as it feels like a version of a biopic that we've all seen several hundred times before (drug addiction, love, redemption, rinse, repeat).
Still, Ethan Hawke is worth watching and Chet Baker is worth remembering. For that, Born to Be Blue is worth watching - and listening to.
Genre: Biography, Drama, Music
Run Time: 1 hour, 37 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Carmen Ejogo, Callum Keith Rennie, Tony Nappo, Stephen McHattie, Janet-Laine Green Written & Directed by Robert Budreau (That Beautiful Somewhere)
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