Born to be Blue starring Ethan Hawke is a re-imagining of jazz trumpeter Chet Baker's life in the 60's. When Chet stars in a film about himself, a romance heats up with his costar, the enigmatic Jane (Carmen Ejogo). Production is shelved when Chet's past comes back to haunt him and it appears he may never play music again but Jane challenges him to mount a musical comeback against all the odds.Written by
Ethan Hawke shines in this film about Chet Baker (but don't call it a bio-pic!)
"Born To Be Blue" (2015 release; 97 min.) is a movie about jazz legend Chet Baker. As the film opens, we are in "Lucca, Italy, 1966" and baker is in prison, only to be bailed out by a Hollywood director. When then go to "Birdland, New York City, 1954" when Baker is at the peak of his fame and fortune, only to be exposed to heroin by a femme fatale. As it turns out, we then understand that this entire sequence was reenacted back in "Los Angeles, 1966" with Baker, now on the com-back trail, starring in his own movie. Alas, misfortune strikes again, as Baker is viciously assaulted, to such a degree that he cannot play the trumpet anymore. Now he faces even longer odds to come back. At this point we are 15 min. into the movie but to tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: the movie does not tell us that this is a "true story" or "inspired by true events", and for good reason, as this is NOT a bio-pic in any way, shape or form about Chet Baker. Instead, the movie brings a fictionalized composite of certain elements and episodes of Baker's life. Canadian writer-director Robert Budreau makes this into his own cocktail mix, and the end result is quite good, and certainly entertaining. That said, the movie would not have succeeded if it weren't for the outstanding performance by Ethan Hawke as Chet Baker, I mean, Hawke nails it. Kudos also to Carmen Ejogo as Baker's love interest Jane (who is African-American). There are a number of key scenes in the movie. One that stands out for me is when Baker and Jane visit Baker's parents in Oklahoma. At one point, the less than friendly (and outright racist) Baker's dad sneers "I never dragged the Baker name through the mud", to which a stunned Baker has no reply, and simply walks away (and leaves for good), wow. If there is one criticism of the movie, I felt that the music was not given a full enough role. There are long stretches in the film where music seems to be an afterthought. Given Baker's fierce love for music, music should never be an afterthought when looking at Baker's life.
"Born To Be Blue" premiered to great acclaim at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, but despite that only got a very limited theater release in the US (it never made it to my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati). So glad I finally picked this up as a DVD. A comparison between this movie and last year's "Miles Ahead" (about jazz legend Miles Davis) is inevitable. I found both movies are quite well done, each in their own way. If you liked "Miles Ahead", you are bound to also like "Born To Be Blue", and vice versa. Bottom line: "Born to be Blue" is worth checking out, be it on Amazon Instant Video or on DVD/Blu-ray.
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