#REVIEW: “MILES AHEAD”
Review by George Kozera for Mr. Will Wong
As a teenager growing up in Montreal, my musical tastes always steered towards R&B, Funk and Motown. In those Jurassic days of yore when something called an internet was more science fiction than “Star Trek”, I would rely on Rolling Stone magazine for information about music and reviews of albums. Often artists whose music I loved (like Sly and the Family Stone) would refer to Miles Davis as a huge influence in their life. On a whim, I bought Davis’ album “Bitches Brew”. A few minutes into the first track spinning on my turntable I realized the music was jazz which I had no appreciation for, put the album back in its sleeve and sold it at a garage sale. To this day, even though I now enjoy jazz vocal stylings, instrumental jazz leaves me cold. And, to this day, all I really know about Miles Davis is that he was a jazz pioneer, a “junkie” later in life and that he was once married to actress Cicely Tyson. I was genuinely looking forward to seeing MILES AHEAD a Biopic starring, co-written and directed by the always amazing Don Cheadle. And, due to the fact that this Movie is set in 1979 during Miles Davis’ cocaine addiction and musical inactivity, I walked away not really knowing all that much more than I did walking in.
MILES AHEAD is a mostly fictionalized movie where a Scottish reporter, played by Ewan McGregor, insinuates himself into Miles Davis’ life with the intent to interview the reclusive jazz legend. Interspersed between car chases, gun battles and a slimy manager stealing a tape recording that Davis had hidden, there are far too few flashback scenes regarding his music and his muse: first wife Frances Taylor (a sensual, powerful performance from Emayatzy Corinealdi). It is clear that Cheadle isn’t sure if he wants to be Tarantino or Sidney J. Furie (who helmed Diana Ross as Billie Holliday in Lady Sings the Blues). As a director, his cinematic vision is flawed. It’s static and confusing; he lacks the experience and confidence to achieve what he may have envisioned. As it is, the Movie doesn’t have the feel of expensiveness it deserves.
However, and it’s a big however, director Cheadle brings out the best performance in the actor Cheadle since Hotel Rwanda. It cackles with boundless energy and stoned buoyancy. It’s malevolent, tender, scary, sexy, and mesmerizing. Had MILES AHEAD been released later this year, Don Cheadle undoubtedly would be an award contender.
Despite the stellar performances from its three lead actors, MILES AHEAD does not do justice to the genius that was Miles Davis.
Mongrel Media release MILES AHEAD Friday, April 15, 2016.