Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll (15)

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Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5
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Time Out says

Tue Jan 5 2010

After a fine start to the decade with ‘24 Hour Party People’, the British music film has become an increasingly drab prospect. Sanitised, reverential biopics like ‘Control’ and ‘Nowhere Boy’ have reduced our most vital rock legends to overanalysed everymen, robbing them of power and mystery in an effort to ‘understand’ them – a pointless and impossible task best left to the cultural scholars.

But ‘Road to Guantanamo’ director Mat Whitecross is having none of it. Tackling the rise and fall of bolshy proto-punk gobshite Ian Dury, ‘Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll’ is a riot of clattering noise and kaleidoscopic colour, off-kilter imagery and foul language, all the good things the title promises and much more. Taking his cue not just from former collaborator Michael Winterbottom’s celebrated Factory exposé but from Todd Haynes’s ramshackle, revisionist rock ’n’ roll masterpieces, ‘Velvet Goldmine’ and ‘I’m Not There’, Whitecross presents Dury as a verbally abusive, dishonest, thoroughly disreputable but endlessly fascinating lyrical genius, exploring his past in a way that informs – but never seeks to explain – his present.

That present is the mid-’70s, the period in which Dury (Andy Serkis)  split from his old band Kilburn And The High Roads – and from long-suffering spouse Betty (Olivia Williams) – to form the Blockheads, with whom he would achieve stellar homegrown success. Taking up with teenage tearaway Denise (Naomie Harris), Dury attempts to juggle the demands of family, fame and mounting alcoholism, but always ends up putting his own needs first.

It’s this refusal to sugarcoat Dury’s shortcomings that really impresses: yes, Whitecross and screenwriter Paul Viragh ask us to empathise with their self-pitying, class-obsessed, emotionally and physically crippled hero, but they never expect us to forgive his excesses. Serkis’s performance is remarkable, alternating between Gollum-esque bug-eyed lunacy and a more subtle, heartfelt portrait of a life in turmoil.

A scene in which Dury revisits the hospital where he spent his childhood, coming face to face with a new generation of angry young outcasts, is quietly heartbreaking: sentimental, perhaps, but entirely schmaltz-free. Similarly, the central relationship between Dury and twitchy pre-teen son Baxter (a superb Bill Milner) does a great job of outlining the unpredictable lows and (often literal) highs of having a deadbeat pop star for a father. You don’t need to be a fan of Dury’s music to enjoy ‘Sex & Drugs…’. This is just gorgeous, celebratory cinema, unfettered and courageous, if unashamedly scattershot, much like the man himself. Forget young Lennon and his tedious Oedipal angst – this is the one by which a new decade of music movies will be judged.
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Release details

Rated:

15

UK release:

Fri Jan 8, 2010

Duration:

115 mins

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

3.9 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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  • 4 star:4
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LiveReviews|17
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Chris

We kept this film for weeks before watching it. What a shame we didn't watch it earlier. Andy Serkis was brilliant, especially his singing with the Blockheads. Not one to watch with your mother or granny, but excellent viewing. Well done.

Chris

We kept this film for weeks before watching it. What a shame we didn't watch it earlier. Andy Serkis was brilliant, especially his singing with the Blockheads. Not one to watch with your mother or granny, but excellent viewing. Well done.

des kilbane

I saw Ian Dury and the Blockheads perform at their peak and they were great. He was a charismatic performer and the Blockheads were superb musicians. The best thing about the film is the music and Serkis' performance. At the start of the film Dury walks to the front of the stage and I just know that he is going to perform "Billericay Dickie". I figured that this is either a good omen or a bad one. Unfortunately it is the latter. I found the montages irritating at best and the many chaotic scenes lacking in directorial discipline Except for a flimsy portrayal of Chaz Jankel, who looked and acted like a David Cassidy clone, the other Blockheads never got a look in or even a name check. Wot a Waste, indeed.

Marek

A very fine performance from Andy Serkis as Ian Dury. If there is any justice in the film world, and I doubt there is, then he should bag the BAFTA for Best Actor. The film was good in parts - a little like a curates egg. The life and times of Ian Dury were very well remembered. The scenes where Ian Dury and the Blockheads were singing were very good indeed. However, I did find the modern art pictures a little grating, and basically was not interested in them. Even so, this film is very well worth seeing - it may not be a great, but it has its heart in the right place, a little like Ian Dury himself.

ella

A brilliant film and brilliant performances from all - particularly Andy Serkis. It was like having Ian Dury back with us again for a couple of hours - which just flew past far too quickly for me. I've just been back to see it for the second time and loved it even more. Superb!

ella

A brilliant film and brilliant performances from all - particularly Andy Serkis. It was like having Ian Dury back with us again for a couple of hours - which just flew past far too quickly for me. I've just been back to see it for the second time and loved it even more. Superb!

Ian

Great stuff - very inventive visually. I loved the way it merged the songs, stories and characters of Dury's songs and persona into the vignettes of his life, making it an amalgam of stories - complete with exaggeration, contradiction and elements of truth. Larger than life performance from Serkis is bang on. Should be up for all sorts of awards, but feels like it is getting ignored in favour of more conventional films. Pity, but will go on to be viewed as a great achievement - and on a miniscule budget too. UK film industry is alright if they can turn out stuff this good.

Evie

Andy serkis captures the punk spirit of Dury perfectly but the standout performance for me was Bill Milner as his son.

Kris

Absolutely brilliant! Serkis nailed Dury bang on. The voice and the physical acting, too!!

Kris

Absolutely brilliant! Serkis nailed Dury bang on. The voice and the physical acting, too!!

Tony

Serkis was great as Dury. I loved this film. Will get a BAFTA nomination at least. I was a Dury fan ( still am ) However, if you are not a fan or not aware of him the film is still a must see. Great acting by the entire cast.Great fun!

Tony

Serkis was great as Dury. I loved this film. Will get a BAFTA nomination at least. I was a Dury fan ( still am ) However, if you are not a fan or not aware of him the film is still a must see. Great acting by the entire cast.Great fun!

Liv

Overall the film was good. Andy Serkis plays a good role. Otherwise, I felt like it lacked a bit of direction and it glossed over any of the more interesting parts of his life (his rise to fame was depicted through a montage, his relationship with his family was only partially addressed, the relationship/friendship between Naomie's and Tom's characters etc.). I also felt that stylistically it was trying a little bit too hard. I thought I'd been watching the film for a lot longer than I had been by the end. Be that as it may, the soundtrack is of course, wicked, the ensemble is fantastic- every actor does a great job. And it's at least a little interesting because Ian Dury was interesting man. If you like his music or are interested in him I suggest going to see it.

Paul

I saw Dury perform during the punk years, the stage show in London and now this, a reminder of what great performer he was. Sometimes I had to fight off thoughts of Gollum or Bronson during some of the scenes, but a fabulous night out. Do stay for the credits and enjoy the final sing song. Mama Mia for aging punks.

Kate

Probably the best biopic about a rock star you are likely to see in a very long time - cinema at its best and inventive -the film is a work of art !

Kate

Probably the best biopic about a rock star you are likely to see in a very long time - cinema at its best and inventive -the film is a work of art !

macka

saw this film today,was most impressed, attention to detail was fantastic ,Serkis as good as you are going to get as Dury, even band members bore a resembelence to the real thing .pity i was the only one watching !