Review of "Born To Be Blue (DVD)"

published 28/09/2017 | sellerleygirl
Member since : 15/02/2015
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Pro An emotional and enthralling film.
Cons Sound very quiet at times
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Characters / Performances
Special Effects

"The rise and fall of the jazz trumpeter born to be blue."

Born To Be Blue (DVD)

Born To Be Blue (DVD)

-•- Born to be Blue-•-

“Look out Dizzy, look out, Miles. There's a little white California boy coming for you."

-• Film Only Review -•-

I am not a fan of Jazz, and I can’t say that before watching this film, I had ever heard of Chet Baker; however, my husband had chosen the film to watch off Sky Cinema, so I decided to give it a try.

-•- Tagline-•-

Love has a rhythm
-•- Genre-•-

• Biography
• Drama
• Music
• Romance

-• Film-•-

“Born To Be Blue” is 2015 Canadian/British drama film directed, produced and written by Robert Budreau. It is a biopic of the late Jazz trumpet musician/singer Chet Baker. The film doesn’t cover Baker’s heyday in the 1950’s, instead it focuses on his determined comeback in the 60’s after struggling with drug addiction and severe injury.

Film Details

Directed by Robert Budreau
Produced by Jennifer Jonas, Robert Budreau, Leonard Farlinger and Jake Seal
Written by Robert Budreau
Cinematograph Steve Cosens
Music by David Braid
Edited by David Freeman
Release dates 13th September 2015 (Toronto Film Festival)
11th March 2016 (General release)
25th July 2016 (DVD)
Running time 97 minutes
Classification 15
-• The Trailer •-

-• -The Story -•-

“Time gets wider, you know. Not just longer. and I can get inside every note”

The film begins in 1966 with Baker (played by Ethan Hawke) locked up in an Italian jail cell, the film is in black and white and with Italian dialogue and English subtitles. We witness Baker bailed out by a Hollywood director who wants him to star in his own life story. There is then a very quick flash back to 1954 when Chet Baker was at his musical peak. This though is all we see of the Chet Baker who was at the top of his profession, as he asks an autograph hunter "Who do you like best, me or Miles Davis?".

We are then taken to the legendary New York jazz club, Birdland, in 1954, the film is still in a broody black and white. The so-called ‘James Dean of jazz’, Chet Baker, is playing a jazz set amongst some beautiful girls, with Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie (played by Kedar Brown and Kevin Hanchard) looking on. Baker swaggers off-stage and tumbles into his dressing room, where he caresses and shoots up heroin with a half-naked female groupie.

Suddenly the film jumps into colour and we realise that we are actually in a 1960's Hollywood film studio, where Baker is starring in a film of his own life.
Baker finds love with the actress who played his love interest in the film-within-the-film, (Carmen Ejogo) and she then becomes his girlfriend in the “real world. Production is shelved when Chet's past comes back to haunt him and it appears he may never play music again but Jane challenges him to mount a musical comeback against all the odds.

But is Chet strong enough to ditch the drugs for good?
Will he ever make the comeback to Birdland that he craves?
-• -The Main Cast -•-

Ethan Hawke as Chet Baker
Carmen Ejogo as Jane / Elaine
Callum Keith Rennie as Dick (Richard) Bock
Stephen McHattie as Chetney Baker, Sr.
Janet-Laine Green as Vera Baker
Tony Nappo as Officer Reid
Kevin Hanchard as Dizzy Gillespie
Kedar Brown as Miles Davis
Dan Lett as Danny Friedman
Katie Boland as Sarah

-• - Acting -• -

“I want to play. All I want is to play.”

This film has two lead performances that are excellent, given by two actors who have a wonderful sexual chemistry. I didn’t know of Chet Baker, but looking of pictures of him at this period of his life, Ethan Hawke seems to capture Baker’s brittleness, both in his face and his voice. He is marvellous and completely credible when playing both the talented jazz musician and the troubled, self-doubting heroin addict. He has an enigmatic broken smile as in all the pictures of Baker that I have seen and a quiet and rather high-pitched singing voice - even daring to sing a famous Baker song and nailing it. However, as well as his attempt at impersonating Chet, Hawke makes an incredible job of his role as an incredible insecure man who finds it difficult to deal with the outside world. It is an excellent and also distressing performance from Ethan Hawke as he plays a completely magnetic character who knows he has to be sober to be a dependable working musician but is also confident that he can never really make decent music without the drugs to numb his pain.
Carmen Ejogo is wonderful as Jane; who is actually a fictional character, that is based on several women in Baker's life, as it seems that the charismatic musician attracted no end of eager women who wanted to look after him
Ms Ejogo manages to turn the patient lover role into a really interesting and empathic character; a woman who stands by Chet and tries to make sense of his various achievements and mistakes. One scene in particular is very moving, as it becomes clear that Baker has his old magic back as he quietly and beautifully sings- ‘My Funny Valentine’ during a studio recording, it is not Hawke’s wonderful performance that catches your attention but it is Carmen Ejogo’s sympathetically underplayed reactions that give the moment its spine chilling power.
The final scene between the two lead actors is very powerful. And emotional; especially from Carmen Ejogo, without her uttering a word, the sentiment was so intense.

-• - Music -• -

“Miles said to come back once I've lived a little. I've lived a little.”

Jazz fans will be more interested in the music in this film than I was, although it was all very pleasant to listen to, but I am not an aficionado of the genre.
Canadian pianist, David Braid, was responsible for the music of the film, although he doesn’t make any appearances in the film. He both composed new numbers and arranged old numbers for the score. The makers of the film decided not to use Baker’s original recordings; the Canadian jazz trumpeter, Kevin Turcotte, does all the trumpet playing - including the period after he loses his teeth and is struggling to make any sound from the instrument. Although Ethan Hawke took trumpet lessons and voice lessons many months before the shooting started, and he actually sang ‘My Funny Valentine’, ‘I've Never Been in Love Before ‘and ‘Born to be Blue’ in the film.

The full score is:

• Let's Get Lost
Arranged and Performed by David Braid
• Ko-Opt
Performed by David Braid
• Haitian Fight Song
Performed by Charles Mingus
• Belle Ami
Performed by Art Neville
• Ruthie May
• Bowling Alley Boogie
Performed by David Braid
• Once Away
Performed by David Braid & Strings
• Blue Me
Performed by David Braid
• Go Down Sunshine
Performed by David Braid
• Summertime
Arranged and Performed by David Braid.
• Blue Room
Performed by Ethan Hawke
• One Monkey Don't Stop the Show
Performed by Sonny Terry
• Tequila Earworm
Performed by David Braid
• A Small Hotel
Performed by David Braid
• Could Have Been
Performed by David Braid & Strings
• Over the Rainbow
Arranged and Performed by David Braid
• My Funny Valentine
Performed by Ethan Hawke and David Braid
• I've Never Been in Love Before
Performed by Ethan Hawke and David Braid
• Born to Be Blue
Arranged and Performed by David Braid

-• -My Opinion -•-

"You should find your one thing and be better at it."

As I said earlier, I am not a lover of jazz and had never heard of Chet Baker – although when I heard his song – ‘My Funny Valentine’ – I did recognise it; my husband is nine years older than me and did remember him. Having said this, I did really enjoy the film, and it did make me look further into Baker’s life and career.
"Born to Be Blue" doesn't actually aspire to full-fledged biography, it is somewhat fictional, focusing on just a couple of pivotal years of his life. We don’t see anything of the handsome young heartthrob who used to play with jazz great, Charlie Parker and who was the inspiration of ‘West Coast Swing’. This film instead shows how Baker struggled nearly every day with a difficult choice: living peacefully and soberly out of the spotlight or putting himself into high-pressure situations where he'd be tempted to use drugs again.

I thought that the way that it was filmed was very clever (although my husband complained he got a little lost), with the film-within-a-film technique that is used. The director uses smudgy but glamorous black-and-white filming, evocative of the look of the jazz era of the 50’s and early 60’s and muted-old-Polaroids colour photographs to capture the past. Then this film-within-a-film disappears and "reality" takes centre stage as Baker tries to get his music career back on track and he connects romantically with Jane.

My main problem with the film was that the beginning seemed very quiet, we had to keep turning the volume up – especially when Hawke was talking, but this did seem to improve as the film went along.

I don’t know if fans of Chet Baker would enjoy this, or if they would pick holes in the story line – but for me it was an incredibly entertaining and moving film, and I am very pleased that I watched it.
-• Ratings-•-

• IMDb 6.9/10 from 5,068 reviews
• Metacritic :64% from 94 critics
• Rotten Tomatoes:89% from 110 reviews

-•- Critics -•-

• The New York Times: "In Ethan Hawke’s extraordinary performance, this glamorous enigma becomes a credible, if pathetic character who lives for only two things: to play the trumpet and to shoot heroin."

• Daily Telegraph: "The occasional lows only serve to illustrate what a minefield the genius biopic can be - and how Born to be Blue skips through the genre more nimbly than most."

• Tony Macklin: "What makes Born to be Blue a special film is the phenomenal performance of Ethan Hawke as the addled, wounded Baker."

• Time Out: "Hawke portrays Baker as a little boy lost: selfish, sweet, insecure, arrogant, impossible to live with."

• The Times: "Born to be Blue is perhaps a too-clever fictionalised take on the life of the jazz trumpeter Chet Baker, although Ethan Hawke's performance as the musician is as compelling as it is painful."

• The Telegraph: "Born to be Blue is a nimble, lilting jazz biopic"

-• - How to View - •-

As of 28/09/17, ‘Born to be Blue ‘can be purchased from Amazon from £3.73 new and £4.90 used.
It is also available to buy on Amazon Video for £9.99 or rent for £2.49.
Some DVDs on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK and are if you have a Prime account, if neither of these apply add £1.26 for postage
Amazon are currently offering £1.00 credit to spend on movies or TV on Amazon Video when you purchase a DVD or Blu-ray offered by A maximum of 1 credit per customer applies.
Offer ends at 23:59 GMT on Wednesday, December 20, 2017

It is also available free to subscribers on Sky Cinema.

-• - DVD - •-

As I watched this on Sky Cinema, I cannot personally comment on the DVD.
However according to the DVD Corner website (

There is a sharp transfer throughout the film and the audio quality is good.

The extras are:
• “Born To Be Blue” trailer and other IFC Films trailers.
• 3 deleted scenes.
• An 8 minute behind the scenes featurette containing interviews, film clips, and discussions about Jazz and Chet Baker.

_ DVD Details _

Format: PAL
Language: English
Subtitles For The Hearing Impaired: English
Region: Region 2
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.85:1
Number of discs: 1
Classification: 15
Studio: Universal Pictures
DVD Release Date: 25 July 2016
Run Time: 97 minutes
-•- In Conclusion - •-

Do I recommend it?
I certainly do.
This is a well-written and well-executed film, it has a solid plot and some gut-wrenching performances, especially from Ethan Hawke. You don’t have to be a jazz fan or Chet Baker fan to enjoy this film, in fact I think maybe it helps that you’re not!
How much of what is shown in the film is factual?
How accurate is the script?
I don’t know and I don’t care – it is a really good film that is well worth watching.

"But don't change a hair for me
Not if you care for me
Stay little valentine stay
Each day is valentines day."
From 'My Funny Valentine'

-•- Pictures - •-

The pictures are of my Sky download all the rest are taken from Google Images.

1. My download off Sky Cinema
2. The young Chet in the 50’s
3. The older Chet, at the time this film was portraying.
4. Chet and Jane with Dizzy Gillespie and groupies
5. Ethan Hawke as Chet on stage
6. Chet and Jane, in sadder times
7. Ethan Hawke as Chet singing
8. Chet and Jane
9. In the recording studios
10. Chet and Jane when Chet is drug free

Thanks for reading I do hope that this review has been of some help!

© Sellerleygirl September 2017

Community evaluation

This review was read 239 times and was rated at
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Comments on this review

  • Secre published 11/10/2017
    Nicely done
  • euphie published 02/10/2017
    e :o)
  • Soho_Black published 02/10/2017
    I've heard the name Chet Baker, but like you, I'm not a jazz fan, so I don't know his music. I do enjoy a gritty biopic, though, and this certainly seems to fall into that category.
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Product Information : Born To Be Blue (DVD)

Manufacturer's product description

Product Details

Video Category: Feature Film

Director(s): Robert Budreau

Actor(s): Ethan Hawke, Carmen Ejogo, Callum Keith Rennie, Stephen McHattie

Sub Genre: General Biographies

DVD Region: DVD

Production Year: 2015

EAN: 5053083084875

Classification: 15 years and over


Listed on Ciao since: 25/09/2017