Blaze (2018) - Rotten Tomatoes

Blaze (2018)



Critic Consensus: As lyrical and bittersweet as the music its subject left behind, Blaze takes a decidedly unconventional -- yet richly rewarding -- approach to the musical biopic.

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BLAZE is inspired by the life of Blaze Foley, the unsung songwriting legend of the Texas outlaw music movement that spawned the likes of Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson. The film weaves together three different periods of time, braiding re-imagined versions of Blaze's past, present and future. The different strands explore his love affair with Sybil Rosen; his last, dark night on earth; and the impact of his songs and his death had on his fans, friends, and foes. The braided storyline terminates in a bittersweet ending that acknowledges Blaze's profound highs and lows, as well as the impressions he made on the people who shared his journey.


Benjamin Dickey
as Blaze Foley
Alia Shawkat
as Sybil Rosen
Charlie Sexton
as Townes Van Zant
Jenn Lyon
as Cinnamon
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Critic Reviews for Blaze

All Critics (74) | Top Critics (20)

Dickey would have made a strong impression regardless. But it turns out he can act, and sing, and has a genuine magnetism that combines with an endearing quality to create a highly appealing screen presence.

October 9, 2018 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

Hawke argues movingly that creative success has nothing to do with fame and everything to do with how an artist grows as a person and impacts the people around him.

October 4, 2018 | Full Review…

Hawke tells Foley's story with heart and style, and that's going to make Blaze Foley even more of a legend, and deservedly so.

September 28, 2018 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Hawke's fascinated by the tug of war between artistic freedom and domestic responsibility, and he's found clever ways to deal with that theme while zigzagging through Foley's life of music, alcohol, cocaine and women.

September 27, 2018 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Ethan Hawke continues scratching his artisty itch by directing and co-writing a biopic of Blaze Foley that feels as raggedy-shambling, jumbled, and sad (but secretly thoughtful and impressive) as the country music oddball himself.

September 21, 2018 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

The movie is Hawke's fourth and best feature as a director; it's immensely touching, and only deceptively shapeless.

September 20, 2018 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
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Audience Reviews for Blaze

AMERICAN FOLK-BORE - My Review of BLAZE (2 Stars) Have you ever seen a film where all of the elements are there - great acting, directing, writing, and cinematography - yet you just can't stand the experience of watching it? Welcome to BLAZE, my nominee for worst best movie of the year. Directed by Ethan Hawke and co-written with Sybil Rosen (based on her memoir and played by Alia Shawkat in the film), this artfully made, experimentally crafted biopic traces the story of Blaze Foley, a Texas outlaw singer/songwriter whose battles with alcohol, mental illness, and ego contributed to the end of his short life in 1989 at the age of 40. Ben Dickey, in his film debut, has a shaggy dog charm in the early years depicted in the film, which intercuts that time with his fateful last night and his semi-successful touring period. The other two thirds, however, presents him as a drunken, spewing, half-lidded monster who never had a gig he couldn't commit to self-destruction. I have no doubt he influenced a great deal of musicians, but this tortured artist story wore me down to the point where I kept muttering to myself, "Just die already!" I begged for John Malkovich's death in THE SHELTERING SKY as well, so Hawke's in good company. Now, I'm saying all of this, yet I acknowledge that this is a really well-made film. Every burnished frame, shot by Cinematographer Steve Cosens, whose prior work I don't know, is gorgeously rendered. Danielle Dyar's set decoration authentically captures the dank spaces of the rural 70s and 80s. Every bedroom quilt looks damp. Every empty dive bar suffers quietly. Dickey and Shawkat, along with wonderful assists by Josh Hamilton and Charlie Sexton, have a terrific, lived-in chemistry. You believe what brought this rebel musician together with this Jewish stage actor, despite their many differences. The kaleidoscopic storytelling feels like the right approach to get inside Foley's mindset. All great things, right? Yet, I feel like any random 30 minutes could have been cut from its lengthy running time and none would be the wiser. Some may make comparisons to INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS and BOUND FOR GLORY, which I understand. The former film shares BLAZE's "asshole musician" DNA while the latter feels similar with its depiction of a beautiful but downtrodden Americana. Still, I'd watch either of those films over and over happily, and I never want to see BLAZE again. Part of my bias stems from not really wanting to follow this entitled, tortured soul around, despite his Vincent D'Onofrio style of sweet charm, but my real issue - and I heartily acknowledge that you may not share this with me - is that I absolutely cannot stand the music he created. Growing up, I heard so much acoustic guitar noodling by the likes of Neil Young, John Prine, and Dan Fogelberg that I couldn't wait to move to LA and hear the new stuff. I turned on KROQ radio and out blasted The Pretenders' "The Wait" and I was hooked. Sue me, but I love energetically performed, mightily produced music, I hated it when Springsteen created NEBRASKA. Can't he just play with a band? There's something about a musician playing an acoustic guitar that makes me want to die. Piano is great. Sara Bareilles can tickle the ivories and sing "She Used To Be Mine" all day and I'm rapt. Pick up a six string and it feels masturbatory to me, like you're recording a demo and will fill it out later. It's no wonder I love Queen, Mika, and Phil Spector so much. They filled their shit out! So watching Blaze Foley tinker with his guitar felt interminable to me. I loved his lyrics, which reached beautiful levels of poetry at times, and his melodies had a simple grace, but his style was nails on a chalkboard to me. Another slight gripe involved letting the audience know right away the circumstances surrounding his death. I would imagine Hawke made this choice so that we would focus on Blaze's life and music and not his demise. When the tragic sequence unfolds, however, he denies the audience of what would have been a true shocking moment. Ethan Hawke has certainly enjoyed an amazing 2018 with his fantastic performance in FIRST REFORMED and the critical reception to JULIET, NAKED and BLAZE. I appreciate his wanting to bring a Hal Ashby aesthetic back into the filmmaking universe and by using unconventional techniques. This feels like a film being whispered in your ear, and that's not an easy thing to sustain. So I'm gonna blame myself for being the wrong audience for this film and go turn the volume up on anything by Garbage or The Divinyls. Come to think of it, I'd pay good money to see biopics about Shirley Manson and the late great Chrissy Amphlett!

Glenn Gaylord
Glenn Gaylord

Super Reviewer

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