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Wildwood Fire ReviewBy Ezekiel McAdams   &n

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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26

Lies For Miles

Jorge Ignacio Castillo
Published Thursday April 14, 07:02 pm
Don Cheadle’s jazz biopic is a decent fib-o-rama

Miles Ahead
Opens April 22
3 out of 5

While Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story was an abject failure at the box office, the underappreciated parody made it impossible for filmmakers to get away with traditional biopics à la Ray or Walk the Line. Exposing the formula underpinning the genre (birth, trauma, discovery, fame, drugs, redemption, and untimely death) caused it to self-destruct.

It’s no surprise then that all three musical biopics opening this spring — Chet Baker’s Born to Be Blue, Hank Williams’ I Saw the Light and Miles Davis’ Miles Ahead — take novel approaches to tell their stories. The most radical of all is Miles Ahead, as the chosen strategy is to make stuff up to paint a larger canvas in a short period of time.

Set in 1979 towards the end of the jazzman’s five-year “retirement”, Miles Ahead depicts a musician on the verge of falling off the edge. Thanks to a steady diet of cocaine and bourbon, Davis (Don Cheadle) isn’t even in control of what happens in his own home. His insouciant behaviour is bankrolled by his record company, hoping to get their hands on a tape containing perhaps Davis’ final session.

The arrival of an eager Rolling Stone journalist (Ewan McGregor) breaks the stalemate and forces Davis to end his isolation and face how his influence has shaped (or broken) other people’s lives. Davis’ long journey into the night is peppered with flashbacks, mainly about his relationship with his first wife, whom he drove away with his out-of-control possessiveness.

Written, produced and directed by Cheadle as well, Miles Ahead is the definition of the passion project. Because of his obvious sympathies for the subject, Cheadle treats Davis too gently (you don’t have to look hard to find horror stories about the musician). He also speculates that the end of his first marriage broke him in more ways than one, and crippling insecurities stunted his career.

Of all the hats Cheadle wears in Miles Ahead, he only comes up short as an actor. His Miles Davis is too often a caricature and is seldom relatable. At least the film keeps the story rolling and remains entertaining throughout — notwithstanding all the fabrications.

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