In an attempt to avoid the pitfalls of trite cradle-to-grave “troubled artist” biopics, writer/director Robert Budreau throws a little bit of everything at the wall in his profile of jazz trumpeter Chet Baker (Ethan Hawke)—and some of it even sticks. Set primarily circa 1966, it follows Baker’s efforts to re-start his career while recovering both from heroin addiction and from a brutal beating that forced him to re-learn how to play his instrument. The gamble is risky, since it allows little time for showing why Baker was actually considered great, and requires clunky expository dialogue. It’s also puzzling watching Budreau wrap his entire narrative around a fictionalized relationship between Baker and a struggling actress (Carmen Ejogo) who tries to help him stay clean. But after the shaky opening half-hour, including black-and-white scenes from a never-made biography of Baker’s life in the 1950s, it eventually settles into a solid story of a man trying to find a way back to his art. Hawke ultimately uncovers the soul of someone who viewed his addiction as necessary for his gift; it’s too bad the movie takes so many odd detours before it gets there.
Director: Robert Budreau
Producer: Jennifer Jonas, Leonard Farlinger, Jake Seal and Robert Budreau
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Carmen Ejogo, Callum Rennie, Tony Nappo, Janet-Laine Green, Dan Lett, Kedar Brown, Kevin Hanchard and Stephen McHattie