Cinema Review: Born to be Blue | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Sunday, May 26th, 2024  

Born to Be Blue

Studio: IFC Films
Directed by Robert Budreau

Mar 25, 2016 Ethan Hawke
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Born to be Blue, a vignette of a turning point in the life and career of musical natural Chet Baker, sketches a line between special talent and the vices that threaten to compromise it. Director-Writer Robert Budreau runs this line meanderingly through a period fraught with uncertainty for Baker, played in nuanced detachment by Ethan Hawke, when his prodigious entree into the territory of Jazz’s elite was jarred off course. After an attack by the facilitators of his heroin habit left him toothless and unable to play trumpet, we see Baker having to call on a will not needed as a performer for whom everything came easily. Rather than a documented charting of Baker’s enigmatic personal history, Burdreau offers a reflexive glimpse along his road to recovery and tentative gestures to instill renewed belief in those who knew him both for his rare gifts and tragic flaws.

Chet Baker possessed an effortless grace that flowed through his playing and singing, magnifying his magnetic aura. Hawke sinks into this essence in his portrayal, exposing the seductiveness of its charms. Primarily through depiction of a supportive but vulnerable romance with the fictitious representation of his life’s muses played tenderly by Carmen Ejogo, we are acquainted with what real life muse, Diane Vavre once described as Baker’s true “ability to elicit sympathy from people.” Despite this being a portrait of an artist that doesn’t show you much in the way of character deserving of rooting on, you do, wanting his fragile brilliance to be unharmed and nurtured back to glory. You hold onto every note blown and every lyric sustained in his performances, hoping he holds it together and regains his magic. As the camera shrewdly scans the room of onlookers for their expressions of judgement, you want them to be of admiration.

While doing nothing to dispel the lore of Jazz luminaries being all about playing, dope, and women, Born to be Blue artfully touches on the existential conflicts that surface when the facility of a talent with which you are identified is lost, and must be located again, even if ultimately by resignation to the nature that jeopardizes it.

Author rating: 6.5/10

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Average reader rating: 10/10


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