Bastards Broth – ★★★½
Don Cheadle has created an entertaining yarn, if mostly fictionalised, account of jazz legend Miles Davis that leaves you with a spring in your step curious to find the truth about this towering figure. It focuses on two days as he and reporter Dave Brill (Ewan McGregor) try and recover a session tape. Over the course of these two days we get flashbacks to Davis earlier musical endeavours.
It has much more in common with the Bob Dylan biopic I’m Not There than say Ray or Walk the Line. We are with Davis some time in the 70s as he is in hiding obsessing over new material. Plucky reporter Brill cons his way into his home and life for a short while to witness what has become of the once great musician. There are no flash backs to a childhood or hackneyed shots of how Miles realised that he had a talent for trumpet. The Miles we are confronted with is a cocaine addict, jittery and paranoid lost in a sea of remorse for what Cheadle would have us believe was his one true love and first wife Frances Taylor (Emayatzy Corinealdi).
Most if not all of the flashbacks are centered around their relationship, domestic violence and all. We see how they fall in love and slowly Miles becomes the dominant force calling all the shots yet unwilling to identify as a married man or adhere to the social mores contained within the institution. Cheadle in a rather heavy handed manner shows how the violence and turmoil influence his work. Davis does come across as quite the bastard yet it is impossible to separate life from art and view the two in some sort of parallel vacuum.
The music is almost second trumpet to the story with it becoming its own soundtrack, a backing track for the anarchy and isolation of his life. For Cheadle’s first feature it’s an impressive task, he hasn’t taken the safe option of cradle to grave storytelling. He succeeds in giving us a sense of the man and will no doubt spark the interest of those unaware of his greatness and piss off purists. There are no perfect music biopics anyway just glimpses through frosted windows of a house long since vacated.
Miles Ahead opens Friday the 22nd of April