From the “be careful what you wish for” files: Here’s a film biography of a musician that doesn’t hew to familiar tropes, instead opting for a one-of-a-kind structure that doesn’t actually make much sense. Don Cheadle directed, produced, co-scripted and stars as trumpeter Miles Davis, in a narrative that slides between 1979, as Davis begins working on new music after a long hiatus, and 20 years earlier, focused on Davis’ relationship with his eventual wife, dancer Frances Taylor (Emayatzy Corinealdi). The 1979-set material is weirdly entertaining, almost a buddy crime caper as a coked-up, gun-toting Davis and an eager journalist (Ewan McGregor) try to recover Davis’ stolen session tapes. And Cheadle definitely goes for the gusto visually, including the transitions between eras based on shifts in Davis’s memory. But it’s hard to latch on to any thematic connection between the two segments, even as we see Davis’ propensity for self-destructive behavior and his creative process. What exactly should be our take-away about Davis’ life, work and legacy? You get a stronger sense of who Don Cheadle is as an artist: someone who needs to work with a better screenwriter than Don Cheadle.
Director: Don Cheadle
Producer: Darryl Porter, Vince Wilburn Jr., Daniel Wagner, Robert Barnum, Don Cheadle, Pamela Hirsch, Lenore Zerman, Mark Amin, Steven Baigelman, Cheryl Davis, Erin Davis and Robert Lewis
Cast: Don Cheadle, Ewan McGregor, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Lakeith Stanfield, Michael Stuhlbarg, Austin Lyon, Morgan Wolk and Christina Karis