Blaze (2018)

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When I was younger, I had a “type” – I dated aspiring blanks. Aspiring artists, aspiring musicians – all unconcerned with mundane, earthly questions like how to get money for rent, drinks, and drugs. Instead, they were already living with an eye on posterity, assuming every word they said was going to be quoted someday. Have you ever spoken to someone who thinks everything he says is worth quoting? Take it from me, it’s absolutely exhausting, and you’ll most likely walk away wondering, “What did we even talk about?”

This is all a roundabout way of saying Ethan Hawke’s biopic Blaze reminded me of every boy I dated in my early twenties. For those who don’t know, Blaze Foley was a Texan country singer songwriter in the 1970s. Ethan Hawke’s version is a bigger, larger than life man (played by newbie Ben Dickey who is literally a good fifty pounds heavier than the true Foley) who says he doesn’t want to be famous; he wants to be a legend. And yet we spend two hours watching him flounder on his journey to becoming a legend. The movie starts in a circular fashion, we see both Foley falling in love with his future wife, Sybil Rosen (played by the charming Alia Shawkat) and his friends wrestling with the aftermath of Foley’s death on the air in a radio interview (with radio host Ethan Hawke, no less). Rosen is Foley’s muse and biggest supporter. She blindly fangirls him and believes in him. And so, of course, he leaves her to pursue the rock star lifestyle of drinking too much with his musician friends and being yelled at by his record label. In the radio interview, Van Zandt justifies this by explaining just how much you have to be willing to give up to make it as a musician. But what Van Zandt sees as strength and discipline comes off as a succumbence to vices on Foley. Foley talks a big talk, mumbling on and on about the cosmos, energy, and inspiration, but we mostly watch him, and the movie, stumbling.

Maybe the problem with the movie is that both Hawke and Rosen have rose-colored glasses on. The movie is an adaptation of Rosen’s memoir, “Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze”, and Rosen and Hawke wrote the screenplay together. The film makes it clear that both Hawke and Rosen truly loved Foley, but it doesn’t quite do enough to make the viewer feel the same. The best part of the movie is the music. Dickey is more musician than actor and his husky voice commands your attention. While the movie doesn’t quite convince me that Blaze Foley was indeed a legend, it’s worth watching, if only just to serve as a reminder that making art and music is hard work and requires more than big dreams and quotable nonsense.

Rating: 6.0/10.0

Additional Reading:

  • Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze on Amazon
  • Watch the trailer here

 

 

Adaptation: Room

Adaptation is a series that examines the film adaptations of some of the books I’ve read (and vice versa). **Warning – there may be spoilers if you have yet to read the book or watch the movie!**

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A Quick Summary: Jack has lived in Room his whole life, but when he turns 5, he learns that an entire world exists outside of Room.

Did you read the book or watch the movie first? I read Emma Donoghue’s Room last September and wrote about it here At the time, I didn’t realize it would be a movie coming out this year as well. I finally made time to go see it at the Angelika this week.

egg snakeHow were the book and movie different? I think the movie was able to truly capture how claustrophobic and small Room was in a way that the book was not. I thought that Brie Larson was phenomenal. She exuded a quiet combination of strength and emotional turmoil, and I found her much more likable than the Ma in the book.

How were the book and movie the same? I think one of the best parts of having Emma Donoghue write both the book and the screenplay is that the themes and tone of the book did not get lost during the adaptation. I was worried that the movie would sexualize Ma or play up the gruesome aspects of the book, but we truly get a movie about the bond between mother and child in spite of terrible circumstances.

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Parting Thoughts: I think that Emma Donoghue was a little too sentimental to her own writing. There were long voiceovers in the movie of Jack reading (what seemed like pages) from the book. I thought it worked well at first to help set the scene, but I found it more distracting than anything else later on. Overall, I was pleased to find the same strong female protagonist and I was amazed by Jacob Tremblay’s portrayal of Jack (the actor is only 9!) However, since this wasn’t one of my favorite-books-of-all-time, I would probably recommend either reading or watching it, but wouldn’t encourage doing both.

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Other Posts in the Adaptation Series: