★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki
I'll preface this review with one statement: I HATE country. It is the worst genre of music that has ever been created. Every single modern country song sounds like, to quote Bo Burnham, "A dirt road, a cold beer, a blue jeans, a red pickup," & it's just way too bland. The only country I like is more folk-based, along with some more country-blues, rockabilly & bluegrass, like Chris Isaak, Townes Van Zandt, & John Denver.
Blaze, while somewhat flawed, is a very down-to-earth & very well-made biopic about an unsung country legend. Based on the 2008 book Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze by Sybil Rosen, & set over the 1970s & 1980s, the film follows Blaze Foley (played by Ben Dickey), an aspiring country singer. Although Blaze is an alcoholic, he is a very caring person at heart.
Eventually, Blaze meets someone with whom he would fall head over heels in love for: Sybil Rosen (played by Alia Shawkat), an aspiring actress. After their courtship goes on for a while, they get married & move into a treehouse in the Georgia wilderness. Although it is a struggle with their relationship when it comes to finances & Blaze's drinking, Sybil nonetheless supports Blaze with his endeavor.
Also at Blaze's side are fellow musicians Zee (played by Josh Hamilton), who is Blaze's best friend, & Townes Van Zandt (played by Charlie Sexton). But as Blaze tries more & more to be a country legend, the more & more his career may fall apart.
The cast is excellent. Ben Dickey gives a phenomenal debut performance. He perfectly embodies Blaze to the point that we only see Blaze, not Dickey. Alia Shawkat also gives a great performance as someone who tries to support someone as much as they can until they can't. And Josh Hamilton & Charlie Sexton provide great supporting performances.
Ethan Hawke's direction is amazing. Hawke throws out the traditional biopic formula in favor of a more quiet yet gritty formula, which works to the film's advantage.
And the screenplay by Ethan Hawke & Sybil Rosen is great. The plot is a bit too aimless & wandering at times, but the characters are so human & the dialogue is so realistic.
This is a very good & different biopic. Although it does wander a bit too much, the cast & the direction power this film.
Blaze was seen by me at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI on Friday, September 28, 2018. It is currently playing in 2 theaters in the Detroit area: the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI; & the State Theatre in Ann Arbor, MI. Its runtime is 129 minutes, & it is rated R for language throughout, some sexual content & drug use.