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A love story. A love story featuring a musician trying to make a comeback and an actress just trying to make it. Though with him being a former heroin addict, one who thinks to tap into his talent he needs his drugs, can they survive?
Drug Use (Needles & Blood)
Characters Worth Noting
Chet (Ethan Hawke) | Jane (Carmen Ejogo)
Main Storyline (with Commentary)
At about 1954, Chet is basically washed up. This career he had, one in which it seemed he may eclipse the great Miles Davis (Kedar Brown), he ruined it all thanks to some woman presenting him heroin. But you know, life came easily to Chet. He skyrocketed due to his pale features, if you believe Miles, and rode that train to the end of the line. But now after being on the streets, in cells, and now seeing some sort of error in his ways, opportunity comes. One he squanders within days or weeks of getting it, but then there is Jane. An aspiring actress who lost her first real gig because of Chet, yet somehow this man missing a tooth, and eventually teeth, charmed her. Charmed her enough to probably do what Chet’s former manager Dick (Callum Rennie) used to do. However, an addict’s demon never leaves. They simply wait till they are alone, when things are too good or when it seems like rock bottom has been hit, and they pounce. So when Chet has the girl, a real shot at a comeback, and yet that old demon heroin is presented to him, what choice will he make? Gotta see the film to find out.
I never trust a cat [who] let loot or love affect his art.
— Born To Be Blue
[…] the feelings that we experience when we’re in love are our normal state. […] being in love shows a person who he should really be.
— Born To Be Blue
You know, I missed seeing this film in theaters since, despite the amount of indie movies I try to see, I never saw a trailer for this. With that said, the only reason to feel down about missing out on this film for so long is Hawke honestly, has a talent for characters on their last rope. He plays weary, but trying, so good that when it seems they are really putting an effort and someone stands in their way, it is hard to not get emotional and pissed off. For while in my notes, I write “Chet is a deadbeat” when it comes to him not actively pursuing work, much less kind of mooching off Jane when the man is in his element you can understand him better. When you have a talent or think now you had talent, what else is there in the world? Jobs which will never satisfy you, a high that even drugs can’t take you to? How could one ever be satisfied with a regular check when you got plenty of big ones in the past and think you are capable of getting them again?
On The Fence
Honestly, being that the movie is about Chet you had to expect Jane to be a lesser character. However, I wasn’t expecting her to be as shallow as your usual romance film love interest. I mean, granted, Ejogo has better chops than your everyday female love interest in a romantic film. However, she isn’t the type of actress who can make a line into an impassioned plea, her doing one of them Denzel tear drops isn’t going to break down your emotional walls and let the flood begin. She is above average, but far from exemplary.
Though, to be honest, the script isn’t the best. Which is part of the main reason I’m labeling this as “TV Viewing.” While Hawke is good, Chet’s journey is all about his comeback and while we see him stumble, and get emotionally connected, there are times when you are just watching the clock. Reason being, nothing really is said to hold you, it is probably more so Hawke as an actor than Chet which is engaging you, and the emotions are subdued. Yes, there are outburst and cute moments, but things often feel monotone like the type of jazz song that more so would be white noise for a nap than something to rile you up. Leaving you with a film which feels forgettable in all aspects. Its love story feels almost generic since Ejogo and Hawke, to me anyway, either don’t have chemistry or their characters just weren’t given opportunities to craft a believable relationship. On top of that, Jane is too underdeveloped so she is essentially just Chet’s girl. Yeah, she wants to be an actress, we meet her folks, but at the end of the day, she is Chet’s dame watching him record, perform, or cleaning up wherever they are. Then, the cake itself, the story, just doesn’t get you. Born to be Blue lacks life, it lacks lively characters, even with Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie (Kevin Hanchard) having small parts, and lacks the type of music which would lead you to want to look into Chet Baker’s actual career. In a way, it is like a many bad unauthorized biography which lacks what made the musician famous and so they try to get you into the artist without their music, and they ultimately fail.