Stardust is launched digitally this week (Image: IFC Movies)
Music biopics usually rely upon the songbooks at their core. Bohemian Rhapsody was divisive, however few may deny the facility of its climactic recreation of Queen’s transcendent Dwell 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 Offered the World within the early Nineteen Seventies. His handler is low-ranking file firm publicist Ron Oberman (Marc Maron), whereas his spouse Angie (Jena Malone) is basically relegated to creating offended telephone calls to him from the UK as her pregnant stomach expands.
The primary half of the film has the highway journey really feel of current Oscar-winner Inexperienced Guide, 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 quilt of Rolling Stone,’ he guarantees relatively too optimistically.
In some ways, this seems like a film of hindsight. We wish Bowie to succeed as a result of we all know what he’ll grow to be, relatively than as a result of the movie reveals you his genius.
The shortage of the music is an enormous a part of this.
Having not secured the rights to the incessantly talked about Area 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 may very well 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 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. Nevertheless, 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 staff names.
Flynn is a terrific and uncooked performer, as evidenced by his breakout flip within the good Beast and his supporting flip in final yr’s Jane Austen adaptation Emma. However right here, he’s hamstrung by the ludicrous pretend tooth and a characterisation of Bowie which by no means will get to the guts of his psyche. Generally he’s naïve, usually he’s smug and generally he breaks into unprovoked performances of the mime arts.
This inconsistency is later advised as a manifestation of Bowie’s concern he’ll undergo from the psychological sickness which exists inside his household tree, however that aspect of the story is rarely given the care and a spotlight it wants. It seems like window dressing.
As an alternative, the film’s third act abandons the mildly pleasant 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 get together for a star.
With no traditional Bowie monitor 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.