This quiet, subtle film based on the life of Chet Baker (1929-1988) is tautly directed and written by Robert Burdreau and profoundly performed by Ethan Hawke; Baker’s warts are glaring and immutable; Hawke’s depiction focuses on his vulnerability, sensitivity and uphill struggle to starve off his burning, perpetual craving for heroine; Baker cannot touch his creative pinnacle without the “dust of destruction”. “Born to Be Blue” paints an episode in Baker’s life where his love for “Elaine/Jane” and recovery from a brutal beating is a poignant hiatus from his inevitable karma.
Carmen Ejojo, as “Jane” is dazzling as the mettle, the force behind his mending; her strength, belief and constant connection to his conscience, result in his remarkable comeback (his mouth and front teeth were brutally bludgeoned), shocking his agent, parents and worshipers. She is his “Funny Valentine”.
Baker’s insecurities transcended his formative trumpeting artistry, lending false legitimacy to his heroin addiction; he shared this propensity with others (Miles Davis, Hank Williams) who soar in the nighttime, the moon is their muse; darkened, smoky clubs, cabarets are the venues where creativity blooms, reputations groomed, destinies doomed.