‘Born to be Blue’ Review

Directed by Robert Budreau

Written by Robert Budreau

Starring: Ethan Hawke and Carmen Ejogo

★★★★☆

“Born to be Blue” follows the convention set by many contemporary biopics, that it is not a biopic per se. A biopic comes from biography, which comprises a subject’s entire life, this movie like other recent biopics is better defined as what I like to call a memoirpic. Which comes from the word memoir, which is a subsection of biography, but unlike a biography only covers a specific event or events in the subject’s life. For Example, James Kaplan recently wrote a two-volume biography of Frank Sinatra, “The Voice” and “The Chairman,” and something like “Night” by Elie Wiesel or “The Testament of Youth” by Vera Britain would be memoirs.

“Born to be Blue” takes place just before Chet Baker’s career resurgence, covering the low point of his career. “Born to be Blue” leaves aside hagiography – idolization of the subject – and shows the flaws and demons that Baker had within him. In the case of Chet Baker, it the heroin addiction that affected him for most of life and career. “Born to be Blue” was a fascinating exploration of the effects of addiction, but was weak on the exploration of the struggle against the demon. The movie made it feel easy, and the only time it reappeared was when Baker put himself back in the situation that created the addiction in the first place.

“Born to be Blue” is highlighted by a brilliant performance from Ethan Hawke in one of the best of his career. The performance was certainly Oscar caliber – a performance that is Oscar worthy is a different matter. I am uncertain as to whether his performance was Oscar worthy. Hawke gave a performance that was layered and complicated. Like all biopics, I am sure that some dramatic license was taken, but not being an expert on Chet Baker, I cannot say what license was taken, but that does not matter because dramatic license is used in all fact-based dramas.

“Born to be Blue” was a fantastic music memoirpic featuring a career highlight performance from Ethan Hawke.

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