Robert Budreau's Born to Be Blue is a creative re-imagining of jazz trumpeter Chet Baker's life in the 1960s, documenting his attempts to rejuvenate his career after a visit from his past. While starring in a film about himself, Chet enters into a romance with his co-star Jane who happens to be portraying Chet's ex-wife. Production is halted after Chet is assaulted by drug dealers who he still owes a debt to, leaving Chet's face badly damaged and his musical career in question because of it. While Chet's crippling drug addiction is where he would usually find solace, Jane's affection and support instill Chet with enough confidence to remain clean as he attempts to learn how to play Trumpet again. Born to be Blue could certainly be described first and foremost as a vehicle for Ethan Hawke, who as Chet Baker delivers one of the best performances of his career. Hawk exhibits the instability and fragility of this troubled Jazz musician with nuance and grace, creating an empathetic character out of an overall self-absorbed man, who finds his sole meaning in life, playing jazz trumpet, taken from him overnight. Chet is a character who lost his identity overnight, and much or the heart of the film is about him attempting to get it back in the form of musical acknowledgement, with Jane being the stabalizing force that keeps him clean. The film is as much about Chet's struggles with addiction as it's about his physical rehabilitation, as Born to be Blue captures in Chet a man whose insecurities fueled his need for heroin. From regionality, being a West Coast musician in an East Coast jazz world, to having the wrong complexion, being a Caucasian in the traditionally African American Jazz scene, Born to be Bad argues that these insecurities fueled his need for drugs, as Chet was a character who became dependent on the calming presence of the high, offering up temporary reprieve from his pain and insecurity about fitting in and being acknowledged. Like the emotions of Jazz themself, Born to be Blue ends in a tragic way, with Chet once again succumbing to the calming presence of heroin before a very important show, a decision that relaunches his career after a phenomenal performance but also shatters his marriage to Jane in the process, as she is a woman who refuses to be by the side of a heroin addict. Born to Be Bad is about the insecurities of being an artist, the importance of having support, and the devastating grip of drug addiction, combining to deliver a compelling and unique biography style film that wisely focuses on one era of its subjects life, and in doing so, creates a characterization that fully encapsulates the type of man he was.
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