Miles Ahead (1/10)
by Tony Medley
Runtime 100 minutes.
Not for children.
Iíve been steeped in
Miles Davisí music since the age of 10. He is so many things, not the
least of which is an indefatigable symbol of creative energy and power;
someone who was never afraid to step out of his comfort zone; someone
who was totally uncomfortable with stasis.
Over the years I was
approached by various people, some of whom were close to Miles and
others who just wanted to see a movie about him; and they said that if
anyone should play him it was me (sic). Iíd already been in a number of
standard bio pics and I had no interest in making another since I found
them full of contrivances and fabrications. You know, ďbased on a true
story.Ē Writer (with Steven Baigelman)-Director-Star Don Cheadle.
So what does Don
Cheadle do? He makes a film full of contrivances and fabrications. You
know, ďbased on a true story.Ē If Cheadle admires Davis, Iíd hate to see
what he does to someone he does not admire.
Davis lived 65 years
and most of it was productive, becoming a legendary jazz trumpeter. But
Cheadle picks the five years out of Davisís life, in the 70s, when he
was not productive at all due to writerís block, a deteriorating hip,
and drug use, some of which was to alleviate the pain. He is shown to be
an angry, abusive, self-centered egotist.
fabrications? Iíll give you some contrivances and fabrications. The
costar of the film, Ewan McGregor, plays Dave Braden, a writer for
Rolling Stone, who never existed. Cheadle claims he created this
white character out of whole cloth because he needed a white costar to
get financing. Are we to believe that there was not one real white
person in Davisís life, and thatís why Cheadle had to invent one?
character, Junior (LaKeith Lee Stanfield), is an additional fabrication,
a contrivance, apparently intended as a metaphor for a younger Davis.
There is a McGuffin
in the movie, too, which revolves around a tape of Davisís music that
has been stolen by Junior and his friends. Davis and Braden try to get
it back. This is pure fiction, a, shall we say, ďcontrivance,Ē or maybe
ďfabricationĒ is more accurate.
that he admired Davis. In fact, he admired him so much that he decided
he had to make a movie showing that Davis was a gangsta.
Letís get real here.
Miles Davis has a reputation as being a superstar musician. There has
never been a movie made about his life. Lots of people donít know much
about him or his music. Cheadle has the opportunity to publicize Davisís
talent and accomplishments by making a major motion picture about his
life. So he picks the five years when Davis accomplished nothing
musically and presents him as a lawless, brutal, abusive gangster.
But, hey, itís ďbased
on a true story.Ē It is true that there was a man named Miles Davis and
he did play the trumpet (of which we see very little in this movie about
his life). Everything else in this film seems to have been contrived and
I didnít know much
about Miles Davis before I saw this film. If I am to believe this
Hollywood biopic, I now know him as an unlikeable, violent, wife
beating, coke-sniffing drug addict gangsta egoist who played the
trumpet. Iíve heard thatís not far off the mark (except for the gangsta
part), so I guess Don gave us what he wanted. And he apparently didnít
want music highlighted.