Born to Be Blue
Ethan Hawke is back to his best starring as moody, chiselled jazz trumpeter Chet Baker in Robert Budreau’s dark, anguished Born to Be Blue. a shining star amidst the mass of outlandishly glamorised biopics that dominate Hollywood.
It is not a happy tale but such is the spirit of jazz, whose very roots stem from the Blues. We are introduced to Baker at what we think is his absolute worst, yet his life continues to spiral out of control as he struggles to deal with drug addiction and his sense of self. “Come back when you’ve lived a little,” Davis tells Baker in the dingy dressing room of the infamous Birdland Jazz Club, and live he most certainly does. After a particularly gnarly beating from a disgruntled drug lord, Baker loses his ability to play and what follows is his journey of rehabilitation and redemption.
The film itself is extremely tense. Baker’s anxiety and wilfulness resonates as he tries and tries again to rebuild a failing career. Budreau’s use of free-form dialogue and realistic character development generates an air of authenticity in an already powerful and intense script and his choice of setting passionate jazz numbers as accompaniment furthers this intensity. The movie is a little too slow at times, yet this is counteracted by the grittier parts of the narrative.
Though the subject matter could attract a niche audience, excellent performances across the board ensure the film’s wider appeal. Hawke is fantastic in his role as Chet Baker, nailing his whispery tone and awkward character traits to a tee. However, it is Carmen Ejogo who takes precedence, with her portrayal of Baker’s plucky and determined counterpart Jane/Elaine.
Born to Be Blue stands alone as an innovative piece of cinema and can be likened to the very music it promotes: soulful, sombre and oh so slightly seductive.
Born to Be Blue is released in selected cinemas on 25th July 2016.
Watch the trailer for Born to Be Blue here: