First Hit: Oddly entertaining and playfully interesting, this atypical biography kept me watching.
Because Don Cheadle signed on as both director and main character, he must have wanted to connect with Miles Davis the man and his music.
As the film opens it's the 1970's and we immediately delve into the quirky, singularly self-focused, and angry life of Miles Davis as he sits in his messy apartment, headphones on, listening to a reel to reel tape. He’s focused on the sounds which the audience cannot hear.
A knock on the door gets reluctantly answered and there stands Dave Brill (Ewan McGregor) who says he’s a reporter for Rolling Stone Magazine. Punching Brill in the face is the greeting Miles gives.
Together they go to Columbia Records and try to get money for what might be on the tape. However, Columbia states they already own the tape by contract. The obvious unspoken drive is that Miles needs money for drugs.
The film awkwardly goes between present day (1970’s) of the film and his past life (1945) including the love of his life, a dancer, named Francis (Emayatzy Corinealdi).
The awkward transitions do not belie the important information gained, but it makes the film difficult to enjoy. Although I understand the importance of the tape (his future), the focus on its theft and capture didn’t help the film’s story. However, in the end as we learn what is on the tape and what has happened, we see the importance of the next person who understands Davis’ approach to music.
One scene that stayed with me was when Miles discussed how he broke music down to core components to see and learn how to “free it up”. As you might expect, the music in this film was superb.
Cheadle was really strong as Davis. He brought the kind of independent intensity that made Miles’ the innovator he was. McGregor was good as the reporter and supporter of Davis’ quest to own and control his music. Corinealdi was very good as Davis’ wife who struggled under Miles’ increasingly drug fueled paranoid nature took hold over their marriage. Steven Baigelman and Cheadle co-wrote this screenplay that seemed to suffer by the storyline used to document/film part of Davis’ life. Cheadle did direct some wonderful scenes as well as scenes that weren’t as strong. The segues were not well done.
Overall: It was interesting to get a glimpse of the genius residing in this musician.