Title: Born To Be Blue

Director: Robert Budreau

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Carmen Ejogo, Callum Keith Rennie, Stephen McHattie, Janet-Laine Green, Tony Nappo, Kevin Hanchard, Dan Lett, Katie Boland, Nat Leone.

The charm of Robert Budreau’s ‘Born to be Blue’ is that it is not a traditional biopic. The Canadian filmmaker gets inspired by Chet Baker’s life and creatively reimagines it, intertwining events that truly occurred to the jazz trumpeter, that don’t necessarily follow the true sequence they occurred in. The cinematic narrative is sprinkled with artistic license, that allows to fully captivate audiences in falling in love with a flawed hero.

Ethan Hawke lights up the screen as Chet Baker, whose tumultuous life is thrillingly reimagined with wit, verve, and style to burn. In the 1950s, Baker was one of the most famous trumpeters in the world, renowned as both a pioneer of the West Coast jazz scene and an icon of cool. By the 1960s, his career and personal life shambled due to years of heroin addiction. Budreau chooses to start his storytelling when Baker was indeed imprisoned in Italy on drug charges, just as the musician attempted to stage a hard-fought comeback, spurred in part by a passionate romance.

Black and white flashbacks playfully deceive viewers in what turns out to be  a metafictional exercise. A film within a film displays in front of us: Chet plays himself in a film starring actress Jane (Camen Ejogo), who interprets his former wife, and eventually becomes his life partner who tries to keep his head on straight and away from drugs.

As facts blend with fiction, driven by Hawke’s virtuoso performance, ‘Born To Be Blue’ portrays – with melancholic zest – how genius is often paired with unruliness and loose living.

Technical: B-

Acting: B+

Story: B

Overall: B 

Written by: Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

Born to be Blue Movie Review
Photo Credit: IFC Films

By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi, is a film critic, culture and foreign affairs reporter, screenwriter, film-maker and visual artist. She studied in a British school in Milan, graduated in Political Sciences, got her Masters in screenwriting and film production and studied at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York and Los Angeles. Chiara’s “Material Puns” use wordplay to weld the title of the painting with the materials placed on canvas, through an ironic reinterpretation of Pop-Art, Dadaism and Ready Made. She exhibited her artwork in Milan, Rome, Venice, London, Oxford, Paris and Manhattan. Chiara works as a reporter for online, print, radio and television and also as a film festival PR/publicist. As a bi-lingual journalist (English and Italian), who is also fluent in French and Spanish, she is a member of the Foreign Press Association in New York, the Women Film Critics Circle in New York, the Italian Association of Journalists in Milan and the Federation of Film Critics of Europe and the Mediterranean. Chiara is also a Professor of Phenomenology of Contemporary Arts at IED University in Milan.

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