There is a certain level of quality expected of biopics, be it from the perspective of writing, production values or acting. MILES AHEAD keeps pace with where it should be as the story of a legendary musician, but it certainly doesn’t lead the pack. Not even close.
What the film provides is a sense that Miles Davis is one of the all-time great musicians, heavily influenced by his muse, and that a particular five-year stretch of his life was particularly difficult for him.
But that’s it.
MILES AHEAD was entertaining, in that the dialogue was well crafted and the mixture of comedy and drama was nicely balanced with a great soundtrack backing it up. They picked a very interesting series of events to cover in the film, and they gave enough background to make it mostly understandable.
MILES AHEAD was informative, in that I had never heard about him stepping away from music for a number of years and being considered among the likes of Howard Hughes in terms of being reclusive and sought after. I had also never heard just how influential his muse was on his music.
And if that’s all we ask from a movie, to be entertaining and informative, then MILES AHEAD did its job. But with such a legendary figure like Miles Davis, I was expecting more, and I know there’s a considerable amount more that they could’ve provided. But one movie doesn’t have to cover everything, so it’s perhaps my fault for wanting too much. What MILES AHEAD provides is a well-executed (not perfect) slice of life from an interesting point in time, but not much more. There are flashbacks and hints at stories they don’t delve into, but they’re not wholly sufficient for appreciating the whole story. My rating only partially reflects this, as the one area they should have delved more deeply surrounds the circumstances around Miles’ wife leaving him. The character is so obviously lonely, he clearly had a tenuous relationship with his muse-turned-wife, but they leave out the part of the film to show what happened in the end of their relationship. We don’t know how that coincides with his stepping away from the spotlight, if at all. We’re left to make assumptions, which is unfortunate because I don’t feel very well informed on that aspect of Miles Davis’ life, and it’s that aspect of his life on which the film focused almost completely. A mild disappointment, but it’s a disappointment nevertheless.
The acting from Don Cheadle is great, as I’ve always expected from him. You really get the sense that he studied Davis and puts it into his performance. I don’t know whether he actually played the trumpet for the film, but it seemed believable enough. I wasn’t blown away by it, though, so I wouldn’t say a best actor nomination is expected. It wouldn’t be a shock, though. Ewan McGregor provided good, natural-feeling energy and was entertaining in his role, but his wasn’t the type of role that would warrant a nomination.
To paraphrase the Gin Blossoms, if you don’t expect too much from MILES AHEAD, you might not be let down. It’s interesting, but it didn’t do a great job at telling enough of the history lesson to leave the viewers feeling knowledgeable, and what it did put on screen didn’t feel special. From the guessing games it makes viewers play through the omission of key facts, to not explaining the “Social Music” phrase used in the trailer and emblazen on his outfit to end the movie, it just felt unfinished and bordered on underwhelming.
My rating: 75 out of 100