Born to Be Blue has lots of soul but lacks charm

Born to Be Blue, Robert Budreau’s chronicle of the attempted career revival of Chet Baker after imprisonment for heroin abuse, avoids many of the musical biopic pitfalls. It revels in the character flaws of its subject rather than sweeping them under the rug. It ignores the facts when they interfere with a good story. Most importantly, its a damn film. Its opening shot of a tarantula crawling out of a trumpet is the most abstract it gets, but it plays with time in interesting ways and captures more than its share of fantastic frames. It falters strongly, though, in making its central relationship believable. Ethan Hawke’s Baker is an intriguingly infuriating figure, but he never exudes charm, and because of this his romancing of Carmen Ejogo’s Jane never quite gels, especially given her devotion to him. Both Hawke and Ejogo give individually great performances, and by the end their relationship is established enough to sell the hell out of a powerhouse climax, but it takes a long time to reach that point.

B-

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Born to Be Blue (2016)
Directed by Robert Budreau
Starring Ethan Hawke, Carmen Ejogo, Stephen McHattie, and Callum Keith Rennie
Rotten Tomatoes (88%)

Born to Be Blue has lots of soul but lacks charm