For Reel


Born to Be Blue (2015)
July 15, 2016, 12:45 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Robert Budreau
3.5 Stars
Born to Be BlueWhat immediately differentiates Born to Be Blue from other musical biopics is its subject. Unlike Johnny Cash or Ray Charles, Chet Baker doesn’t carry quite the baggage of heroism—he’s as famous for his downfall as the specific vulnerability of his music, a figure whose struggles with addiction  kept him from reaching greater heights. Writer/director Robert Budreau positions the film as a sort of redemption story that focuses on his comeback, but it is hardly a story where wrongs are righted and the characters involved live happily ever after. The film pits addiction against love and, by the end, it becomes increasingly clear that they cannot coexist, and losing one or the other is probably going to be equally devastating. Born to Be Blue is elevated by the specific tragedy of Baker (he’s wrought as a terribly insecure man who is desperate for the approval of the jazz legends of his day) and Hawke’s delicate performance, but Budreau also employs a self-reflexive gimmick early on that works so well it becomes frustrating when it is dropped. And yet, it proves to be an ambitious feat of storytelling that successfully lays the groundwork for what follows—Budreau lets audiences feel comfortable in the fact that they’re watching a typical musical biopic before upending the genre altogether. With the baggage out of the way, the narrative rebuilds itself, and even if it checks off some of the expected genre trademarks, Budreau is insistent that the audience focuses on why Baker’s story is a different beast altogether.

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