Jazz trumpeter Chet Baker (Ethan Hawke) was a music icon in the West Coast Swing scene in the 1950s and 60s. But, his addiction to heroin and deep insecurities would lead to his downfall and he struggled to get back his past glory in “Born to Be Blue.”
My dad was a huge jazz fan in the 1950s and I remember him (fondly now, not so much then) playing his favorites – at ear splitting volume at 2:00 AM. One of the jazz greats that dad loved to listen to was Chet Baker. I remember looking at his album covers but I did not know much about the iconic trumpet player. Writer/director Robert Budreau corrects this lack of knowledge of the man and his music with a reimagining of the life of Chet Baker.
Ethan Hawke is impressive in his performance as Baker and brings out the confidences, insecurities and addictions that shaped the man. His early professional life shows a trumpet playing man at the top of his game. This career is ruined, though, when he is severely beaten because of drugs and his front teeth are smashed in. Years ensue as Baker tries to get his magic back, with the help, love and dedication of Jane (Carmen Ejego), who represents the women in the musician’s life as helper, lover and muse. There is very nice chemistry between the two.
“Born to Be Blue” shows the life of a very complicated and insecure man whose addictions almost destroyed him. It is also about the woman who helped him through his worst days. The music is cool, too. I give it a B+.
Laura also gives "Born To Be Blue" a B+.
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