The road to recovery is full of potholes in Robert Budreau’s Born to be Blue, a biopic about jazz trumpeter/singer Chet Baker (Ethan Hawke). The movie is a comeback aspirational narrative chronicling Baker’s attempts to stay off heroin while recovering his ability to play after getting his front teeth beaten out of him by unpaid drug dealers. The other throughline of Born to be Blue is Baker’s relationship with Jane (Carmen Ejogo), an actress who was to play Baker’s wife in a movie about Chet that gets shelved after the beating. Living on dreams, the pair settles for squatting by the Pacific in Jane’s Volkswagen van. The movie incorporates Baker’s mileux; his heroes, Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie; and the club Birdland. The portrait of Baker here is warts-and-all: he’s egotistical, insecure, selfish yet lovable and seemingly loving (even though his greatest love was heroin). The tension of the movie stems from will he use? Hawke’s impersonation is excellent. The payoff of the movie is wrenching.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White