Born to Be Blue Poster

Born to Be Blue (2015)

Biography | Music 
Rayting:   6.9/10 8071 votes
Country: Canada | UK
Language: English

A re imagining of jazz legend Chet Baker's musical comeback in the late '60s.

Movie Trailer

User Reviews

subxerogravity 31 March 2016

The overall production was stellar.

Ethan Hawke gives a honest performance that showcase his most endearing qualities as a fine thespian. His portrait of Chet Baker is impressive.

Hawke and Cameron Ejogo who played his girlfriend in the film had a lot of chemistry between the two of them, which is good because the movie centers on the both of them greatly. I herd her role is more of a mixture of many women Chet seem to be able to pull down, which only makes her performance more important, as she goes from being a coworker in a movie about his life to his love interest, the mother of his child, and most importantly the muse the keeps him going and inspires him to kick his drug habit in order to get better and play better.

The imagery of the film was great, it was not too colorful but gave a bright California vibe known in 1960s movies.

And it was a well told story about about drug addiction. It was not one of these things where you should feel super sad for the person cause he can't stay off the stuff. It was a honest look about an insure man who could not function properly without heroin in his system.

Truly a masterpiece in cinema when you can tell a fantastic and interesting story in a motion picture that does not to use Hollywood clichés in it. I loved it.

vsks 14 April 2016

Ethan Hawke stars in this beautifully acted portrayal of jazz trumpeter and singer Chet Baker during his prime. Know that the film treats the facts of Baker's actual biography, as one reviewer said, more like a chord chart than a score and riffs from there. What is true-to-life is that Baker was an only child, born on a lonely ranch in Yale, Oklahoma, and went on to have numerous relationships with women and a long-term relationship with heroin. Musically, he was a progenitor of West Coast Swing, but always had his eye on the New York scene, with the mantra: "Look out Dizzy, look out, Miles. There's a little white California boy coming for you." An accident when Baker was 12 caused him to lose a front tooth, after which he had to re-learn to play the trumpet. That was a mere warmup to the effort he had to put in after his drug dealer pistol-whipped him and knocked out all of his front teeth, destroying his embouchure. Yet, he couldn't stay away from heroin. He thought it made his playing better, and he was all about his music. While Baker had a great talent for improvisation and sustaining a melodic line, he had no talent at all for being happy. After one important comeback milestone, his manager (Callum Keith Rennie) asks, "Would you try to be happy for more than ten seconds?" This line provides the ironic overlay to the choice of title for the film, one of Baker's big hits. Hawke did the films vocals; the trumpet playing was by Canadian trumpeter Kevin Turcotte. Written and directed by Robert Budreau, the movie has an opening scene that shows how a girl he picked up after a performance casually introduced him to heroin, and he didn't say no. This scene turns out to be part of a movie being made about him and whether such a significant life event happened in such an offhand way, we don't know. The insertion of black and white scenes, some of which may be from the movie (which was never finished) or from his memory, plays with the order of events, especially early in the film, an improvisational approach to history that mimics jazz music itself. Although Baker does get clean for a several years as he is recovering his playing ability, a return to heroin remains a risk in the music business. As his parole officer says, "You go into a barber shop and sit in the chair long enough, you're going to get a haircut." Still, his parole officer, his girlfriend—the delectable Carmen Ejogo (playing a composite of several women)—his manager, and many musicians wanted him to succeed, including Dizzie Gillespie and Gerry Mulligan. Miles Davis, notoriously prickly, was not a fan, and we'll get a chance to get his side of the story in the biopic with Don Cheadle, coming soon.

SquigglyCrunch 29 September 2016

Born to be Blue follows famed jazz musician Chet Baker as he struggles with both losing and attempting to regain his ability to play the trumpet, as well as quitting his addiction to heroin.

Ethan Hawke plays Chet Baker, and I was a little unsure as to what I'd think. I haven't been terribly impressed by Hawke, despite liking him in his movies. He hasn't blown me away with anything. That is, until this movie. He's pretty great. He fits the character perfectly as this rough-around-the-edges but still used to the wealthy lifestyle which he has and a little naive because of it kind of guy. One would think that the higher tone of voice he uses for this role might be annoying, but it really isn't. Plus he just looks the part. He was perfect in every way for this film and his character.

This is a movie about a famous jazz musician, so we can assume that the soundtrack will be good. And it certainly is. Not much to say there, but it's great. The fact that Hawke even sang all of it is even more impressive on his part. He's got a great voice for the part too, and I'll definitely be listening to this soundtrack in the future.

The flashback sequences were pretty cool. Normally filters placed over a scene bother me, but in this case it worked really well. That, and the fact that it isn't the whole movie placed under a filter. Plus, the filter is just really cool. It suits the movie with it's black and white look with a tint of blue. It looks like a flashback, but it has this dark liveliness to it, similarly to how Baker's life was portrayed. Furthermore, the movie decides to use the same actress as his lover for both the flashbacks and the present for reasons that I won't spoil. But trust me, it was a interesting decision and it worked.

And the climax, or more just the whole last twenty or so minutes, are amazing. They are easily the best part of the movie. There's an excellent scene right before the climax itself involving a decision Baker has to make, and it's so good. Of course, Hawke continues to tell us how great he is in this role. Then the climax itself starts and it's great. And as it comes to a close it wraps itself up in a way that we don't see often. It's a realistic, unconventional way of doing it that I figure is the truth. As far as biographies go, we don't see a lot of them where the ending isn't all good and happy. Born to be Blue is one of those rare movies that has the balls to tell an honest story with an honest ending, and I loved it. Right down to how certain small elements were handled were just on point.

If I can find any real error in this movie its the fact that the general plot of some skilled person hitting rock bottom and working their way back up has been used many times. However, the presentation is all that really matters in a case like this, and I thought it was pretty great. On top of that the movie is, despite being only 97 minutes long a little slow. Maybe I expected it to fly by because of how much shorter it is than some other movies, but I thought it dragged just a little from time to time.

Overall Born to be Blue is pretty fantastic. The acting, specifically from Ethan Hawke is great, the music is great, the climax is fantastic, and it all around nailed it's presentation of an otherwise unoriginal idea. This is one of the best movies of the year and I would definitely recommend checking it out.

ferguson-6 30 March 2016

Greetings again from the darkness. Most biopics aim for historical accuracy with only the occasional stretching of facts for dramatic effect. Within the past couple of weeks, I've seen two that take a much different approach … fictionalized versions of jazz icons – legendary trumpeters Miles Davis (Miles Ahead) and Chet Baker. Writer/director Robert Budreau expands on his 2009 short film to deliver a feature length look at the talented and troubled Baker … with a huge assist from Ethan Hawke.

The film begins in 1966 with Baker locked up in an Italian jail cell. Bailed out by a filmmaker who wants Baker to star in his own life story, a flash back to 1954 allows us to see Baker at his musical peak. As he heads into a gig, he asks an autograph seeker "Who do you like best, me or Miles Davis?" The question could be arrogance when asked by another artist, but it's our first insight into the insecurity that Baker struggled with his entire life. His desire to be liked sometimes conflicted with his goal to be great. But like the story of so many musical geniuses, it was the drug abuse that continually sabotaged the talent.

Carmen Ejogo (Coretta Scott King in Selma) plays Jane, a fictionalized blend of Baker's lovers through the years. The two of them are good together, though she is as much a caretaker as a lover … keeping him on track and nursing him through the (many) tough times. Baker received a savage beating that cost him his front teeth and ability to play the trumpet for years. The movie presents the beating as drug-related, but history is unclear on the matter. Still, it's painful and brutal to watch Baker bleed for his art.

Baker is credited as the inspiration of West Coast Swing, though it's quite challenging to relate to yet another junkie musician – no matter how talented. He's just not a very interesting guy as presented here. Talented, yes … but not very interesting. Additionally, none of Baker's music is actually heard. It's been reimagined, just like his life story.

Despite the issues, Ethan Hawke delivers what may be the best work of his career. He is tremendous and believable as both the talented jazz artist and the insecure drug addict. Director Budreau creates a dream-like atmosphere at times, which adds to the "is it real" style. The 1988 Oscar nominated documentary "Let's Get Lost" is probably a better source for Baker's life story, but Budreau's take does capture the man's struggles.

Quinoa1984 13 April 2016

I wouldn't go as far as to say that Ethan Hawke was "born" to play Chet Baker (no pun intended to the title), but this is the kind of performance that tends to be talked about for years to come. There's no front put up between him and the audience, and despite the vocal change to be a little more hoarse or whispery or however it was that Baker was naturally from his Oklahoma-cum-cigarette-strewn roots, it feels as if Hawke has slipped into Baker's shoes from the outset and that he just IS him. And though it's mostly set in the time period where Baker bottomed out the hardest - getting his teeth knocked out by a dealer while shooting a movie featuring himself as his own character in the 'Chet Baker Story - with those scenes from the movie in the movie (whether they were filmed or just imagined by Baker from the script written for him) Hawke gets to play multiple time periods and not in a typical bio-pic format.

As an actor he gets to have such a complex, vulnerable person to slip into, and at first I wasn't sure how he would do. I think Hawke's a terrific actor, though a lot of the time it seems as if it's just Hawke as... Ethan Hawke on screen, with some exceptions (like Gattaca), and even in the 'Before' films it seems just like it's this cool guy getting in front of the camera. It seems like a lot to keep harping on the lead performance like it means everything but in this case it kind of does - there's no Giamatti or Elizabeth Banks like in last year's Love & Mercy, and also the filmmaker behind this, Robert Budreau, is not making filming it quite like the standard bio-pic: long takes where the actor (also co-star Carmen Ejogo for most of it) has to keep our attention while playing a famous musician who was not someone with a presence off-stage that was immediately compelling.

There's a lot to dig in to here thematically, whether it's drugs or race (Baker being the 'white boy' among the black giants like Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie, the former doesn't take too kindly to Baker in the 50's prime by the way), but while watching the movie you don't need to think about that. It's simply about this man who has his own way of going about things, is gentle in his way, and yet there's an intensity, bordering on a rage, that makes him compelling. Is it about addiction as much as the Eastwood Charlie Parker movie (Bird)? Yes and no - yes in that it's always there, as it is for all addicts, and when a scene like after he plays a show at the local bar (where he's trying to rebuild his trumpet playing skills) and a 'fan' slips him some dope (to which he responds "I thought you were a nice girl"), it seems hard not to sort of feel sorry for Baker that he's in a world where it's almost expected, in a way, for the Jazz heroes to be stone-cold junkies.

But no in that it's primarily a love story, which is where the chemistry between Hawke and Ejogo is especially crucial and, in this case, kind of strange and awesome in the approach. Many times you simply see a famous musician or actor or whoever in a movie meet a girl and fall in love and they have the ups and downs (Ray and Walk the Line are little else if not that), but here the twist is that Baker meets his love interest as she is playing his *former* lover in the movie-that-didn't-finish in the 1950's. It's a meta touch, but it's not to the point where the director takes us out of the film to any annoying degree;

paul-allaer 9 February 2017

"Born To Be Blue" (2015 release; 97 min.) is a movie about jazz legend Chet Baker. As the film opens, we are in "Lucca, Italy, 1966" and baker is in prison, only to be bailed out by a Hollywood director. When then go to "Birdland, New York City, 1954" when Baker is at the peak of his fame and fortune, only to be exposed to heroin by a femme fatale. As it turns out, we then understand that this entire sequence was reenacted back in "Los Angeles, 1966" with Baker, now on the com-back trail, starring in his own movie. Alas, misfortune strikes again, as Baker is viciously assaulted, to such a degree that he cannot play the trumpet anymore. Now he faces even longer odds to come back. At this point we are 15 min. into the movie but to tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Couple of comments: the movie does not tell us that this is a "true story" or "inspired by true events", and for good reason, as this is NOT a bio-pic in any way, shape or form about Chet Baker. Instead, the movie brings a fictionalized composite of certain elements and episodes of Baker's life. Canadian writer-director Robert Budreau makes this into his own cocktail mix, and the end result is quite good, and certainly entertaining. That said, the movie would not have succeeded if it weren't for the outstanding performance by Ethan Hawke as Chet Baker, I mean, Hawke nails it. Kudos also to Carmen Ejogo as Baker's love interest Jane (who is African-American). There are a number of key scenes in the movie. One that stands out for me is when Baker and Jane visit Baker's parents in Oklahoma. At one point, the less than friendly (and outright racist) Baker's dad sneers "I never dragged the Baker name through the mud", to which a stunned Baker has no reply, and simply walks away (and leaves for good), wow. If there is one criticism of the movie, I felt that the music was not given a full enough role. There are long stretches in the film where music seems to be an afterthought. Given Baker's fierce love for music, music should never be an afterthought when looking at Baker's life.

"Born To Be Blue" premiered to great acclaim at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, but despite that only got a very limited theater release in the US (it never made it to my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati). So glad I finally picked this up as a DVD. A comparison between this movie and last year's "Miles Ahead" (about jazz legend Miles Davis) is inevitable. I found both movies are quite well done, each in their own way. If you liked "Miles Ahead", you are bound to also like "Born To Be Blue", and vice versa. Bottom line: "Born to be Blue" is worth checking out, be it on Amazon Instant Video or on DVD/Blu-ray.

cekadah 4 August 2016

Ethan Hawke as Chet Baker is giving us a characterization of Chet Baker not as the person but surely as what it felt like to be Chet Baker. It is Chet Baker trying to understand himself and how his music was a projection of himself to which he was always striving to make more perfect. No human can do this therefore the heroin was an escape from himself.

Carmen Ejogo positively shines as the two women in his life. As his girlfriend Elaine she tries to bring some sense of balance and grounding into his mixed-up life and realizes late into their loveship she will always be second to his music and drugs.

This story is fascinating and painful. And this is where the viewer may experience compassion burnout because Baker is forever making the same mistakes. He cannot see this but you the viewer will see it and by movies end you just do not care anymore. Everything about this movie is right but by the end you are just at the point of being bored!

Still this is a film worth every minute of viewing time.

meeza 13 April 2016

Holy Chet! The Chet Baker biopic "Born to Be Blue" was a whopper of a film. Its suave style is reminiscent of another Baker jazzy film, which is the classic "The Fabulous Baker Boys". Chet Baker was a renowned trumpeter and jazz legend who had a near lifelong addiction to heroin. "Born to Be Blue" focuses on Baker in his 40's. His career has gone down the tubes, he gets brutally beaten by some drug dealers, and he cannot play his trumpet due to his injuries to his mouth. Baker then meets a beautiful aspiring actress named Jane who plays as an inspiration for Chet to get sober and make a jazzy comeback. Writer-Director Robert Budreau plays all the right tones in his direction and screenplay of the picture. Steve Cosens' cinematography was a picturesque mastery that should get him many encores to work in other movies. Ethan Hawke does not blow it at all as Baker; in fact, his Baker Act is the best performance of his illustrious career. His work as Baker is born to be an Oscar. Carmen Ejogo was sweet music to my ears in her performance as both Jane and Baker's ex-wife Elaine who was shown in flashbacks. Callum Keith Rennie manages to do some fine work as Baker's longtime manager Dick. The music of "Born to Be Blue" was a grand piece of Chet. I have no doubt that this movie will be in my Top 10 or even 5 of my favorite films of 2016. I was absolutely enamored with this stupendous movie! True "Born to Be Blue", baby I love you! ***** Excellent

organicsocial 6 October 2016

Ethan Hawke is my favorite actor and I make it a point never to miss his movies. Just for that reason I know about 'Born to be Blue'. Where I live, this movie will never get screened in a movie hall, I'll never find a DVD and it will probably rarely be ever shown on TV. I guess even in Canada(Chet Baker's home country), not many have seen it yet. Such is the low profile of Ethan Hawke's art cinema role preferences that most of the times people come to know about these movies long after they are released. That trend is in-fact exemplified by this semi-fictional biopic about Chet Baker, the prolific jazz trumpeter, heroin addict and a free spirit.

The story is a bit of a noir mixed with real life incidents. It plays like a heroin fueled jazz improvisio. Chet Baker, the artist on whose life it is based on, was a bit of an enigma himself. Starting way back in the heydays of jazz, Chet was a white artist making his mark in the black dominated music scene. Estranged from his father and addicted to substance abuse, he was on a lookout for love that was always around the corner but never enough. A typical self destructive musician. The biggest crest in the plot comes in the form of actual physical harm. Details are unclear but some rivalries lead to him getting beaten up and losing his ability to play the trumpet. We see a lot of movies about 'comebacks' but this one is real. It is not just about overcoming defeat or depression. It is about finding yourself being propelled by passion and passion alone to achieve something impossible.

Ethan Hawke has done it again! Ever since Gattaca, I have found his performance mesmerizing. As Chet Baker, he embodies the pain and madness of a jazz artist so brilliantly that you would forget the flaws of the person and start loving him for what he is. Oh! and Hawke sings in his own voice in two of the songs. Soundtrack of the movie consists of some of the best Jazz standards and songs performed by David Braid. So, if you're a jazz aficionado then you should not miss it for the world.

Carmen Ejogo is a fresh face from England and plays the persistent love interest of Chet in the film. This is her first performance that I've come across and she is scintillating. To say that her role is split in two parts is enough preview without spoiling the rest. I implore you to go watch this film. Go with a lover if you can because it is about heartbreaks more than personal struggles.

dierregi 4 December 2016

This movie is a fictional reconstruction of a short period in the life of Baker, during the 60s. Starting with Chet in an Italian jail in 1966, the story quickly moves to New York, where Chet is invited to play himself in a documentary about his life. Then follows one of the most amazing scenes I ever saw.

Opening as a black & white flashback, we see a young Chet in 1954, playing very cool in Birdland, with Miles Davis and Dizzie Gillespie in the audience. In the backstage we see what should be Baker's initiation to heroin, but we discover that the scene is actually part of the documentary.

Brilliant film-making is made of such scenes conveying all the magic of cinema.

The story continues with Chet trying to rebuild his "career" with a help of a female artist, unfortunate enough to be attracted by his relatively good looks and melancholic charm. The pair moves from New York to California, where Chet swear to be clean and ready to play some serious jazz.

Unfortunately, Chet was the master of all junkies, unreliable, selfish and self-destructive. His girlfriend wisely dumps him and off he goes to enjoy the company of heroin until the day he died.

I am not a jazz fan and never heard any of the music Baker played, so I cannot comment about the remarks about the music not being good enough or even detrimental to the movie. For me it was a very well written and executed film, with a solid plot and good performances.

PS: as far as "blackening the reputation" of Baker... I never understood why junkie musicians should be idolized. The history of contemporary music is paved with unpleasant, self-destructive characters who had exceptional musical skills. Egotism does not make them any less talented, but certainly does not add to their charm.

If you want to see what years of heroin addiction do to the body, just check the photos of Chet from his early 20s until the end of his life. The crevasses on his face mirrors the destruction of his internal organs....

Opopopielo 4 December 2016

Great photography, good direction and decent acting gave substance to this movie, which unluckily suffered from a poor script. The plot is too diffuse and the characters appear to be poorly structured. While the idea of showing Chet Baker during his struggle to regain ability to play the trumpet is okay, the film focuses too much on the role of his relationship with Jane in his comeback. To the viewer it is never really clear why this relationship started and on what it is based on. Chet is presented from one direction, he doesn't really change during the movie and he is never really introduced, this leaves a gap that makes it harder to follow the character in his struggling.

Movie Scene

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