Posts Tagged ‘Chet Baker’

Ethan Hawke as Chet Baker

Ethan Hawke as Chet Baker

“BORN TO BE BLUE” My rating: B

97 minutes | MPAA rating: R

We are introduced to musician Chet Baker (Ethan Hawke) in a filthy jail cell. He’s lying on the concrete floor in a fetal position, sweat pouring off him, surrounded by cigarette butts. He seems to be going through heroin withdrawl.

So we know from the getgo that “Born to Be Blue,” Canadian filmmaker Robert Budreau’s feature about the “James Dean of jazz,” is going to be a rough ride.

Trumpeter/vocalist Baker (1929-1988) is famed as the inventor of West Coast swing. He is also the very model of the white junkie jazz genius, his main competition for the title being the late Art Pepper.

“Born to Be Blue” isn’t a formal biopic. Rather, writer/director Bureau attempts something like Todd Hayne’s Bob Dylan-themed “I’m Not There.” Think of it as a fantasia on the life and loves of a terrific musician who was also a deeply flawed individual.

The junkie jazzman is hardly a new cinematic concept, but “Born…” benefits from what may be Hawke’s strongest performance. Chet Baker was a handsome, charismatic charmer who, when he wasn’t creating great music, was battling demons.

Watching Hawke’s work here, we realize why people were drawn to Baker, and why most eventually bailed.

The film begins in 1954 with the young Chet playing New York City, pursued by swooning bobbysoxers and desperate to earn the approval of his idols and competitors, Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie.

In this black-and-white segment he picks up a beautiful black woman and takes her to his hotel suite, where she turns him on to heroin. Their buzz is interrupted when the woman (Carmen Ejogo, the Brit who played Coretta Scott King in “Selma”) breaks character and accuses Chet of ignoring their dialogue and improvising.




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