For a biopic about a cult country musician from the ‘70s and ‘80s where it’s clear within minutes that things don’t go well for the protagonist, Blaze sure is a compelling film.
But while it may seem like somewhat of a disadvantage from the outset, Blaze Foley not being a household name actually works in the project’s favor, as does knowing specific details early on about his tragic history and ultimate demise.
Under the confident eye of director Ethan Hawke, everything is a discovery and makes one wonder what’s true and what’s invented, while non-chronological storytelling, intelligent framing devices and the grounding presence of fellow songsmith Townes Van Zandt (Charlie Sexton) add to the mystique.
Real-life musician Ben Dickey plays Blaze a bit oversized at times, notably in small, intimate moments with wife Sybil (Alia Shawkat, revealing more depth yet again), though that large presence could very well be true to life and works more often than not.
Whether on stage performing songs that should have made Blaze famous or navigating his often intimidating fellow humans — including Sam Rockwell, Steve Zahn and Richard Linklater as a band that promises him great fortunes — Dickey stays the melancholic outsider course and nicely fits within Hawke’s clean, frequently imaginative visuals and steady pacing.
Grade: B-plus. Rated R. Starts Sept. 28 at Grail Moviehouse
(Photo: IFC Films)