R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Stephen Woolley
scr Neal Purvis, Robert Wade
with Leo Gregory, Paddy Considine, David Morrissey, Monet Mazur, Amelia Warner, Tuva Novotny, Ben Whishaw, Luke de Woolfson, James D White, David Walliams, Will Adamsdale, Nathalie Cox
release UK 18.Nov.05
05/UK Intandem 1h42

Wig out: Morrissey, Considine and Gregory

gregory considine morrissey

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Stoned Woolley has produced some of the finest British films made over the past two decades, so it's not surprising that he finally turns to directing. But despite some strong acting and a groovy 60s vibe, the film is a mess.

As the Rolling Stones grow in popularity, founding member Brian Jones (Gregory) descends into artist excess and drug abuse. His manager (Morrissey) hires builder Frank (Considine) to work on Brian's sprawling manor, and the two men become fast friends. Or maybe they're addicted to each other. And before Brian's found dead in his swimming pool, he's alienated his bandmates (Whishaw's Keith Richards, de Woolfson's Mick Jagger, White's Charlie Watts), his girlfriend Anita Pallenberg (Mazur) and pretty much everyone around him.

At least I think that's the plot. It's not easy to tell, since it's assembled as a swirling eddy of encounters and flashbacks, awkwardly labelled with non-sequential dates. We never quite know where or when any given scene is taking place, certainly there's no sense of narrative context. The scenes are beautiful to look at, and often dramatically strong, but without an overriding through-line, they feel like unrelated short films featuring the same cast.

The cast is superb, but only Considine has a proper character to work with; Frank's an intriguing bundle of hopes and insecurities, plus elusive dark demons. This is really his story, not Brian's. And while Gregory has some excellent moments, he struggles to emerge from the drugged-out wooziness, especially with those cheap-looking wigs. Of the remaining cast, only Mazur and Morrissey get interesting roles, although we never know much about them. The rest barely register at all.

As a director, Woolley has some nice touches, including a striking opening nod to Sunset Boulevard, varying the film stock, and capturing the raw eccentricity of a rock star lifestyle. But he's obviously limited by copyright issues from including any Stones music or focussing on the band's own story. And the film is so infuriatingly jumbled that it's virtually impossible to follow. Not to mention the relentless homophobia and a series of weak epilogues. Stylish but almost unwatchable.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality, nudity, drugs, violence 8.Aug.05

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2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall