Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner06/01/2010

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 113 mins

Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll features a terrific soundtrack, a fascinating central character and a sensational performance from Andy Serkis, but the direction is all over the place and the film is ultimately let down by a messy, scattershot screenplay that struggles to find the right tone.

What's it all about?
Directed by Mat Whitecross, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll is a British biopic based on the life of singer-songwriter Ian Dury (of Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick fame), who suffered with polio all his life and whose charismatic, offbeat stage persona and lyrical prowess led to him becoming a hugely influential figure in the punk and New Wave era.

Using a Blockheads gig as a rough-edged framing device, the film takes a scattershot approach to Dury's life, moving back and forth between his sickly childhood (newcomer Wesley Nelson plays the young Ian), his early career, fame and relative fortune and his relationships with his son, Baxter (Bill Milner), his father (Ray Winstone) and the women in his life, including long-suffering first wife Betty (Olivia Williams) and girlfriend Denise (Naomie Harris).

The Good
First things first: Serkis delivers a sensational performance that not only captures Dury's voice, physicality and singing style but also doesn't shy away from the fact that he could be a bit annoying at times. There's also terrific support from Williams, Harris and young Bill Milner, while Winstone makes a memorable impression in his brief appearance as Ian's father.

The Bad
Unfortunately, the film is not without flaws and is frequently frustrating. For one thing, Dury is a genuinely fascinating, complex character and yet the screenplay barely scratches the surface - aside from the polio, we get very little insight into Dury's character and even less about his musical background and influences (something that doesn't compare favourably with a seemingly throwaway scene in Nowhere Boy that shows a grinning young Lennon listening to The Goons).

On top of that, the script's framing device and scattershot approach mean that you're constantly leaping from one period in Dury's life to the next and back again, to the point where you long for a more linear approach or just for the film to pick a period and stick with it.

Worth seeing?
This is worth seeing for Serkis' terrific central performance, but the structure is frustrating and you can't help feeling that a more traditional approach might have served the story better.

Film Trailer

Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll (15)
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Content updated: 22/04/2019 05:54

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