Review: Blaze confirms Ethan Hawkes status as a real filmmaker

BLAZE (Ethan Hawke). 129 minutes. Opens Friday (December 14). See listing. Rating: NNNNEver heard of Blaze Foley? I hadnt. But.

BLAZE (Ethan Hawke). 129 minutes. Opens Friday (December 14). See listing. Rating: NNNN

Ever heard of Blaze Foley? I hadnt. But Ethan Hawke has, and he wanted to make sure the rest of us did.

Hawkes new movie Blaze reconstitutes the late country singer who died in 1989 at the age of 39 through three different lenses. We see him in his relationship with girlfriend Sybil Rosen (Alia Shawkat) we watch his final concert before his untimely death and we drop in as his friends remember him in a long radio interview. One of those friends is Townes Van Zandt, whos played by musician Charlie Sexton, which lends a fluid meta texture to this biopic.

After stellar performances in First Reformed and Juliet, Naked, Hawke closes out a banner year with this compelling directorial effort, which spins the cliches of the self-destructive celebrity narrative into an honest exploration of a man who couldnt behave himself to save his life.

In his first screen performance, singer/songwriter Ben Dickey inhabits the role of Foley with a restlessness that feels authentic hes a genuine find, and his scenes with Shawkat have a complexity and a tension that similarly rings true. (Hawke co-wrote the script with the real Sybil Rosen, working from her memoir.)

Blaze might be telling a story weve seen before, but it does so from an angle that offers a few surprises, including a collective cameo by Sam Rockwell, Steve Zahn and Richard Linklater, and Hawkes own engaging presence as the unprepared DJ conducting the interview that frames the film.

I know Hawke got off to a shaky start as a director with Chelsea Walls and The Hottest State, but between this and his terrific 2014 documentary Seymour: An Introduction, the guys grown into a real filmmaker. This should be encouraged. Go see Blaze.

This review is part of NOW’s 2018 Holiday Movie Special. Check out more here.


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