Born to Be Blue
dir-scr Robert Budreau
prd Robert Budreau, Leonard Farlinger, Jennifer Jonas, Jake Seal
with Ethan Hawke, Carmen Ejogo, Callum Keith Rennie, Tony Nappo, Stephen McHattie, Janet-Laine Green, Dan Lett, Natassia Halabi, Kedar Brown, Kevin Hanchard, Katie Boland, Joe Condren
release US 25.Mar.16, UK 25.Jul.16
15/Canada 1h37
Born to Be Blue
On the record: Hawke

hawke ejogo rennie
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Born to Be Blue A jazzy biopic about iconic trumpet player Chet Baker, this film has plenty of style and makes great use of the music. And while Ethan Hawke gives a committed, involving performance, the film's inventive, stylistic flourishes sometimes threaten to overwhelm the basic simplicity of Baker's story.

In 1966 Los Angeles, Chet (Hawke) is starring in a movie about his life, with actress Jane (Ejogo) as all of the women he loved. But he's having trouble differentiating between playing a heroin junkie and actually being one. When he's attacked by thugs who knock out his front teeth, he's also unable to play his trumpet. With his parole officer (Nappo) on his trail, he works to regain his embouchure, taking Jane to visit his parents (McHattie and Green) in Oklahoma. Back in California, he convinces producer Dick (Rennie) to help stage a comeback.

Filmmaker Budreau uses black and white clips from the film within the film to illustrate Baker's earlier days in heightened scenes that swirl with musicality. And the full-colour sequences also pulse to Baker's rhythms, giving the film an underlying sense of foreboding as this maverick artist tries to remain on the straight and narrow and settle down with Jane. Even those who know nothing about Baker's later period will be able to see what's coming.

Hawke is terrific in the role, seductive and magnetic, with an effortless sense of Baker's musical gifts as well as the tenacity required to recover from injuries that should have ended his career altogether. Hawke lets Baker's darker side gurgle up subtly, almost making him even more attractive. Opposite him, Ejogo is superb as a woman who knows exactly how much of this she can cope with. This is a couple that's very easy to root for, even if we know that enduring happiness isn't the usual destination for a showbiz biopic.

Best of all is the way the film is completely soaked in achingly soulful music. Performances and recording sessions are shot in ways that capture the ebb and flow in each song, as well as the distinct impact of each number on Baker and his audience. In the end, the film may not have much insight into Baker or his work. But it beautifully conveys how it feels to be a musician for whom playing the perfect note is the biggest high in the world.

cert 15 themes, language, drugs, sexuality, violence 6.May.16

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