Stardust review: David Bowie biopic falls flat without iconic tunes

Stardust review: David Bowie biopic falls flat without iconic tunes


Stardust is launched digitally this week (Image: IFC Movies)

Music biopics typically rely on the songbooks at their core. Bohemian Rhapsody was divisive, however few might deny the ability of its climactic recreation of Queen’s transcendent Stay Assist look. Rocketman excelled due to Taron Egerton’s spirited and charismatic renditions of a few of Elton John’s greatest hits.

It’s very uncommon – although not unprecedented – for a biopic to work with out flashes of the memorable music of its topic.

Sadly, new David Bowie biopic Stardust falls foul of this. It was made without the cooperation of the late legend’s estate – and, in consequence, by no means actually will get close to the distinctive persona of the person who would grow to be Ziggy.

To its credit score, director Gabriel Vary’s film doesn’t attempt to fake to be one thing extra definitive. ‘What follows is (largely) fiction,’ declares the opening title card.

The movie focuses on a small fragment of Bowie’s life, with Johnny Flynn’s tackle the singer embarking on a really low-key American tour to advertise his struggling album The Man Who Bought the World within the early Seventies. His handler is low-ranking document firm publicist Ron Oberman (Marc Maron), whereas his spouse Angie (Jena Malone) is essentially relegated to creating offended cellphone calls to him from the UK as her pregnant stomach expands.

The primary half of the film has the highway journey really feel of latest Oscar-winner Inexperienced Ebook, unfolding as Bowie – unable to play correct gigs due to visa points – performs fruitlessly for vacuum salesmen whereas Oberman makes an attempt to woo journalists. ‘I’m gonna get you on the duvet of Rolling Stone,’ he guarantees somewhat too optimistically.

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In some ways, this looks like a film of hindsight. We wish Bowie to succeed as a result of we all know what he’ll grow to be, somewhat than as a result of the movie exhibits you his genius.

The shortage of the music is a giant a part of this.

Having not secured the rights to the incessantly talked about House Oddity or any of the tracks Bowie carried out when he developed the Ziggy Stardust persona, it has its main man carry out covers.

None of Bowie’s music might be used (Image: IFC Movies)

The Flynn-penned Velvet Underground homage Good Ol’ Jane is a enjoyable track in isolation, but it surely by no means feels just like the creation or the efficiency of a once-in-a-lifetime expertise on the verge of exploding into psychedelic life.

There’s no denying the love in the direction of Bowie on this story, with Vary and Flynn clearly immensely respectful to the person whose story they’re making an attempt to inform. Nonetheless, it by no means shakes the sensation of an unofficial pencil sketch – like an early noughties soccer recreation for the PlayStation that had you play as ‘David Backhim’ for ‘Manchester Reds’ as a result of they couldn’t safe the rights to actual participant and workforce names.

Flynn is a terrific and uncooked performer, as evidenced by his breakout flip within the good Beast and his supporting flip in final 12 months’s Jane Austen adaptation Emma. However right here, he’s hamstrung by the ludicrous pretend enamel and a characterisation of Bowie which by no means will get to the center of his psyche. Typically he’s naïve, typically he’s conceited and typically he breaks into unprovoked performances of the mime arts.

This inconsistency is later instructed as a manifestation of Bowie’s concern he’ll undergo from the psychological sickness which exists inside his household tree, however that factor of the story is rarely given the care and a focus it wants. It looks like window dressing.

As an alternative, the film’s third act abandons the mildly pleasurable highway journey premise for a extra inside and in the end tangled story.

Vary’s script, co-written with Christopher Bell, establishes the varied threads which is able to lead Bowie to Ziggy Stardust, however by no means bothers to tie them collectively. As an alternative, an abrupt flash-forward brings the viewers to a fully-formed Ziggy, rising on stage in what is meant to be a euphoric popping out celebration for a star.

With no basic Bowie observe to carry out, although, all of it feels muted – a scalpel-sharp music icon blunted into an empty caricature.

Stardust is launched digitally on Friday.


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