Smouldering in black and white, Ethan Hakwe’s Chet Baker welcomes ‘Born To Be Blue’s’ twin themes in its opening bars: “Hello fear. Hello death.”
Consumed by talent and the target of envy, his Chet Baker has everything; the looks, the girls, the lifestyle but not the respect, which is denied to him by Kedar Brown’s Miles Davis. “Come back when you lived a little” chides Davis after Chet’s Birdland debut. And then like one of Chet’s solos, ‘Born To Be Blue’ flits back and forth across his life, contrasting his failing marriages to both art and addiction.
Ethan Hawke paints an absorbing portrait of Chet as a frustrated, yet gifted man-boy…
In the title role, Ethan Hawke paints an absorbing portrait of Chet as a frustrated, yet gifted man-boy. Truly afloat on the good nature of others, his performance perfectly conveys Chet’s bemusement and bewilderment at his place in the world, whilst still taking you inside his bashful, little-boy-lost persona.
Unlike ‘Ray’ or ‘Walk The Line’, ‘Born To Be Blue’ doesn’t seek to apologise for Chet or grasp for redemption. This is not a biopic that wants to sell you a happy ending or a moral denouement. Instead, ‘Born To Be Blue’s’ magic is in how it slowly brings you to the same melancholic crossroads as Chet, where only he can decide what kind of note to play next.
Seek it out before the stage lights dim.