Wednesday, 3 August 2016


A distinctly lacklustre amble through a decisive period in the destructive adult life of jazz trumpet icon Chet Baker, what eventually emerges from this somnambulant biopic are those qualities that stick out, strangely inspired, dissonant to the general disinterest. Director Robert Budreau flattens everything out in Born to Be Blue, discouraging those rogue elements from taking any kind of meaningful hold over his film, but also offering them a none-more-blank canvas on which to display their goods. The music is delicious, the acting is divine, and though it may never seem that Budreau is aware of this, at least he makes you, the viewer, aware. There even becomes a mild appeal to the film's modest, meandering nature - its unshowy art direction, its lazy pacing, the total absence of flash and bang in all aspects of the filmmaking. You settle into the groove of Born to Be Blue once it has too, once it has overcame the fussy, adolescent stylizations of its first, horribly problematic act. Budreau reaches for profundity in obvious technical manoeuvres that could quite plainly never engender such an outcome, certainly not with such an unsure hand at the helm, guiding a film that itself is characterized by insecurity in its very essence. Ethan Hawke, playing Baker, provides a valuable measure of meaning to that insecurity, exposing the torment behind the genius - a pat, overly familiar concept, but one realized quite convincingly in Hawke's performance. The radiant Carmen Ejogo is equally soulful in a well-written part, elevating the hackneyed 'supporting wife' role with care and commitment. On the whole, however, Born to Be Blue could have used more of those virtues. Good acting does not necessarily a good movie make.