Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll (2010)
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And not just England's: strange as it is to picture a generation of nascent Brooklyn and West Coast rappers wigging out to Black Sabbath or German art minimalists during the 1970s, how stranger still that A Tribe Called Quest should sample Dury for 'Can I Kick It'? Or is it? The Blockheads sound is a steaming gumbo of (hugely influential) influences: a dollop of pub rock, a sprinkling of free jazz, a dash of lover's rock, a generous infusion of English music hall, all topped off with Chas Jankel and Co's boiling blue funk. What's not to like about that lot?
It shouldn't really work, but it does - just like the frontman himself, as complicated as any artist worth their sodium chloride. Kitted-out like he'd ram-raided a jumble sale run by a collective of art students, Psychobillies and NHS outpatients, Dury's arty 'Do It Yourself' attitude anticipated British Punk Rock (which studied, literally, at his feet) by several years. Not that he aligned himself with any such movement. There's a lovely clip on YouTube from 1979, in which he invites "Mickey Jones from The Clash" up on stage to play 'Sweet Gene Vincent with him.' "Now listen," he warns the Clash man, "we've got *four* chords in this song, Michael..." Jones' gloriously chagrined grin is worth the admission alone.
So, are we to mourn this real mensch's decline with some Thunderbird wine and a black handkerchief then? Or instead, party like it's 1977? Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll is a truly life-affirming and brilliantly unsentimental celebration of the Mockney and his music. Serkis was born to play this role, allowing him to make the most of his celebrated physicality and vocal dexterity. (So convincing, in fact, the real Blockheads have suggested Serkis subsequently go on the road with them.)
Whether barrelling, quip-me-quick, through a set - a defiant Long John Silver with a singing range that starts out like a caress from a brillo pad soaked in brandy - and ends up like a charging Cockney Elephant; making a literal breakfast of a recording studio by pouring milk and eggs into the mixing desk; or bellowing the song that gives the film its title - and really, what other title could there possibly be? - he's the spit, snot and fag ash of the unofficial Poet Laureate who gave us the likes of 'Billericay Dickie', 'Plaistow Patricia', and of course, 'Spasticus Autisticus': it's one of the ironies of his career that the showman's terrifically self-assertive contribution to 1982's United Nations Year of The Disabled was subsequently banned. "I'm not Tiny Tim, I'm Ian Dury!" he roars at "Graham from the Spastics Society". "People like me don't want sympathy - we want respect!"
Respect is what the filmmakers bring, by the bucket-and-spade, closely aided by Dury's daughter Jemima and son Baxter - now a musician in his own right, who appeared with his dad on the cover of 'New Boots And Panties', looking for all the world like Dodger to Ian's Bill Sikes. And this is really a film about fathers and sons. Bill Milner plays Baxter, a rock star's son going predictably, if spectacularly, off the rails, and Ray Winstone is Ian's adored dad Bill. Between these generational polarities, Ian struggles to reconcile familial responsibilities (and two lovers) with his growing fame, while trying to do right by his father's memory.
"Being an underdog with nothing to lose is a good place to start in life," Bill tells him, teaching him to stand on his own two feet, if only with the aid of callipers. Years later, when too busy to watch over Baxter's swimming session, Ian's glibly departing words are "Keep your head up, keep kicking, try not to drown." It was in a swimming pool, of course, where Ian contracted polio. As we say, complicated. Dury puts it more bluntly: "To be a geezer like me, you've got to be a bit of a selfish loony; occasionally one's behaviour makes one ashamed of oneself."
All of which probably suggests scenes of anarchic mayhem followed by periods of reflection and redemption. Well, bollo to that, 'cos this ain't your average rock star biopic either: no insultingly reductive peaks and troughs. As Dury states towards the end of the film, "The only thing I've missed is a few buses." Instead, scenes are introduced, non-linear-fashion, via the appropriate conceit of a stage performance: backdrops spring to life, as real-life morphs into pop videos. There's sterling support too from Naomie Harris as Ian's girlfriend Denise Roudette, and Olivia Williams as his extremely understanding first wife Betty. Actually, being 'extremely understanding' would appear to be the default setting for anybody within this force of nature's sphere.
Ian, you feel, would have really enjoyed this film, as playful and rough around the gills as he was, with a gleefully inventive aesthetic. He would have also liked the fact its producer set up a disability training scheme for young, disabled, aspiring actors and filmmakers during the production; there's a scene toward the end in which Ian visits a group of disabled kids, and addresses them with exactly the same beautiful frankness he'd reserve for anybody. The final 10 minutes treats us to a superbly recreated Blockheads gig, for which they should clear the cinemas of seats and let the people mosh till they drop. Oi Oi!
I would have liked the movie to have paid more attention to the great chart success the man had... rather than just fast forwarding to the ensuing self-destruct mode of fame!!! Missed opportunity... one could indeed say What a Waste!!! Interested in British music history... success over adversity... controversy... go and see it. A fan of Dury and the Blockheads... go and pay homage.
Might have been better... but still a great tribute to a great artiste, and well worth a view!
This is again a somewhat contrived and forced contrast to the bathetic scenes of Dury's growing up as a young boy, abandoned by his father, bullied at school by his class-mates and one particular teacher, his adult predilection for treating his womenfolk very badly indeed and finally the difficult relationship with his own son Baxter, who has since become a recognised musician in his own right.
I felt the scenes with the two women in his life, his wife and mistress were a bit overwrought and overwritten, their dialogue too forced and you're always anticipating an inspired pearl of wit or wisdom from Dury when real life just doesn't work that way, even with clever bastard word-smiths like him. It's like expecting Shakespeare to curse and moan in rhyming couplets if he was having an argument - my point is we know that Ian Dury had a way with words but not every minute of the day.
All that said, the film rattled along and certainly did the man's musical legacy proud. I thought a bit more could have been done to play up the importance of Chaz Jankel and his nifty tune-spinning - certainly Dury was a lot less successful when writing to someone else's melodies. Andy Serkus is great in the Dury role, he looks and talks the part very well, acts his disability imperceptibly and keeps up the characterisation right into the songs, of which many are aired.
For some reason the film misses out about the last 15 years of his life and we don't even get to know how he died, although the director may claim that the film was a celebration of his life and won't be the last bio-pic to fast forward past the more mundane parts of an artist's life. For that reason, the first half of the film as he struggles for success is better than the inevitable rock-star excess in the second half, where Dury's persona becomes a bit blurred.
All told though, I quite enjoyed it but regret somewhat that the director felt the need to jazz up his subject's life in a way that I'm not sure a no-bullshit guy like Dury would altogether appreciate.
His performance is top drawer and does make you feel you are in the room with the chief Blockhead himself. But this is more than a music homage. This is a reasonably complex life story told with more than a smattering of real film skills. It opens a bit frenetically with a hotch-potch of animation, flashbacks, montage and "stuff" that the director's (Mat Whitecross - not one I know) using to try to tell the back story quick as a flash. Whilst it works in story-telling terms it feels like it's trying too hard and it takes 20 minutes for the film to find its feet as Dury metamorphosises from Kilburn and The High Roads into Ian Dury and The Blockheads.
Thereafter, the film is far more assured, but strangely unmoving on the whole, despite the fact that there are a lot of episodes that could have jerked a tear or two. Little is made of his chart success. other than the typical excesses that stardom inevitably brings in its wake; rather, the film is much more interested in his complicated love life and (abysmal) family life which lays true the aphorism that what goes around comes around. Actually, it's better for that.
In particular the relationship with Dury and his son, Baxter (played brilliantly by Son of Rambow star Bill Milner) is the main thread of the movie. Initially reticent, Baxter becomes increasingly influenced by his rebellious father and follows suit. Again, like Dad, in response to the bullying and humiliation he faced at school.
The finale is really good and pulls together a lot of strands including the Spartacus references that cropped up earlier in the action. I won't spoil it by telling you how though.
actually,the movie tries a little too hard; it's a touch too stylised for my liking, but it zips along quickly despite its fairly lengthy 115 minute running time.
Overall, I'd recommend it; if for no other reason than to wonder at Andy Serkis.
7 out of 10.
But is this is the real story? For a start he had one of the great backing bands (and to be frank they were more musical than him!) and, besides that, he was both an art teacher and born and brought up well outside of London. Making him Mockney No.1.
Like most bio-pics, facts that don't fit the overall picture are thrown over the wall. Also chronology is not guaranteed either. Never mind the interesting bits that the micro-budget couldn't touch.
Serkiss is simply great as Dury. Indeed hard to see anyone doing any better with the material. Such as it is. Why did women go for this unconventional man who clearly had a great deal of trouble thinking beyond himself and his own creature comforts?
("Don't know" says the movie very honestly. Although he may have been quite nice on the days he wasn't acting a prick. There was a brain and a conscience up there.)
Like many artists you are glad for their art because it shows they had hidden depths that their appearance and behaviour didn't always indicate. Later he left music ("writers block") to try and be an actor. I don't mean play at being an actor, but become a real one. Work at it. Character roles a speciality. He did OK actually. Another fact that could have been a good 20 minutes rather than ending up over the aforementioned wall.
The whole production team has worked hard to get some energy and oomph in the film and not to make it limp like the man himself, but despite that it is really only a time passer. As I have already said, the film doesn't have the budget to get involved in his era (which made him really) and while it is nice to know he had a country house and a swimming pool the real action is clearly elsewhere most of the time.
Ian Dury was an entertainer, or that's what he always said he was interviewed. He had been struck down with polio when he was young and this left him withered down his left side. When we first see him, he is with another band who are rehearsing downstairs while his wife, Betty, gives birth upstairs. Later, after their last gig, he meets Denise Roudette, with whom he has an affair. They move in together and a while later, his son, Baxter, comes to stay with them. As Ian puts a new band together, including musician and songwriter Chaz Jankel, Baxter struggles to come to terms with the chaotic lifestyle he has been thrown into. The film plots his rise to fame and the effect it has on Ian and those around him. It also tells of his early life in flashback, his relationship with his father, Bill, and his unhappy childhood in an institution. I won't say any more as I don't want to give too much away.
Made in a very theatrical style, this film cuts from live action to animation, to live musical performances and back again. It all sounds a bit chaotic, but, for me at least, it works. At the centre is a really great performance from Andy Serkis as Ian Dury, although he doesn't particularly look like him, he has all his mannerisms down to a tee. I also thought Bill Milner played the part of Baxter Dury very well, it can't have been an easy part for a young actor and I thought he coped with it pretty well. Similarly, Wesley Nelson played the part of Young Ian Dury very well. I should also give honourable mentions to Olivia Williams as Ian's wife, Naomie Harris as Denise Roudette, Tom Hughes as Chaz Jankel, and nice cameos from both Ray Winstone as Bill Dury (Ian's dad) and Noel Clarke as Desmond.
Although Ian Dury wasn't the easiest person to get along with (for those that don't know, he passed away in 2000) and consequently not the nicest man in the world, I found this quite an enjoyable film to watch. I can't say I'm a huge fan of Ian Dury and the Blockheads, but I do recognise that Ian was a very talented chap and I always respected him as an artiste. Later in his career he appeared in quite a few films, not a bad actor. Over all, it's quite an interesting film, very touching at times but also quite bold in its approach. I know it won't be everyone's cup of tea, but still recommended.
My score: 7.1/10
Talking of which, Jamie Winstone appears before the film starts doing her schoolmarm bit, telling us to watch out for anyone videoing the movie. "There's always one who's got to spoil it isn't there..." The movie is good stuff and I liked the dialogue, though much of it may be bon mots from the man himself rather than from the scriptwriter. It's mainly The Life and Death of Peter Sellers type stuff, in that we have a guy over 30 held back by perceived physical limitations and prejudice who makes it big at the expense of his family life.
That said, the genre is a bit box-ticking in its emotions, it's all emotional shorthand. Everything is deliberately simplified, prettified and made a bit phony. When we see the band practising at home, and Dury sacks the drummer while his wife is giving birth upstairs, well, that's based on a real event, except here it looks phony, comical. And it's a bit like that throughout: here's the girlfriend looking moody, here's the kid petulantly burning his dad's presents, etc. It lacks verisimilitude, or that seedy, downbeat 1970s punk vibe. The audience is spoonfed and every scene is a stepping stone. It also has to overlook the fact that unlike Gene Vincent, Dury did not die young, say in 1980, but 20 years later, not in a ripe old age admittedly but with enough time to conjure with.
Still, enjoyable throughout and artist Peter Blake's titles are very good. Blake was Dury's tutor don't you know.
He was stricken with polio as a boy which left him physically disabled. This made his life hard but it also instilled in him an inner fire to succeed. It was a big part in what made him ultimately successful. Andy Serkis plays Dury and it's a pretty committed performance it has to be said. But the character isn't really very likable or sympathetic. Maybe this was based on fact, although I really couldn't say. Either way, being in the company of Serkis's Dury is a bit wearing. For a biopic it's a bit on the plodding side. There's not really a massive amount to the story which doesn't help. I would have liked more attention paid to the Kilburn & the High Roads part of the narrative as I think they were maybe the most fascinating band Dury was a part of but I guess that is just a personal preference. Ultimately, though, this is decent enough. It's well acted with some fun period detail - get his son's mullet! – and the recreation of the music is well done. But the character and music didn't do too much for me.
It's not like any bio-pic i've seen in recent years, it has a little Todd Haynes-esquire scenes in the film, and the concert footage is really something else.
But it doesn't glamorise the fact that Dury was a star, it doesn't really delve into his money or the music he made, it focuses on the the struggles Dury had with his illness, and trying to bring his son up.
It's very interesting to see that the film-makers don't show Dury as a hero, they show him as a vulnerable child-like man, who cannot cope with the real world. Someone who wants to live life to the full because he probably feels his childhood was lost, so he makes up for it, and tries to get his son to have fun too.
A lot of issues are not elaborated on, which is a shame. The bullying of his son is never fully established, we just get a little revenge in the woods, and thats that, and there is also a scene where Dury is doing a Q&A at the school he attended, and a boy challenges hims about God, there is something there, but the makers ignore it.
But these are just minor flaws in an otherwise interesting film. Serkis is uncannily like Dury, and he is absolutely fantastic as the singer, showing rage and passion.
The rest of the cast are also good, but this is Serkis' movie, and he commands every scene he is in.
It's a very dark movie, sometimes psychedelic, sometimes disturbing, but the narrative flows well and for fans of the music and the man, it's a must.
Starts pretty badly - jumping all over the place, lacking focus. I guess this was a deliberate attempt on director Matt Whitecross' part to capture the mania and intensity that was Ian Dury. Unfortunately it mostly just makes you feel disoriented.
However, the movie eventually settles down and a more linear and cohesive narrative ensues.
Good performance from Andy Serkis and Ian Dury. Good support from Olivia Williams, Naomie Harris, Tom Hughes, Ralph Ineson and Bill Milner. James Jagger, son of Mick Jagger, also appears, in a minor role.
Ultimately, quite interesting, though you feel that the movie only scratches the surface of Ian Dury's life.
Andy Serkis played Dury to a tee. He was phenomenal and captured the wildness that was "Ian Dury & Blockheads", and all throughout the movies length it captured the nutty, crazy feel of the bands music. An honourable mention also goes to Bill Milner, playing Baxter Dury very well also. In conclusion, pretty much everything that happens on screen feels authentic and loyal to Dury, and if that isn't what biopic's are about, what is?
Final Verdict: Even to this day, I'm pretty much still listening to Ian Dury & the Blockheads. This film is a perfect slice of the Cake of Liberty. 6/10.
Serkis is the acknowledged master of the motion capture CGI technique, and his command of physical acting was important to portraying Dury's trademark inhibited gait as well as his charismatic stage presence. Seeing him performing the songs made famous by Dury and the Blockheads - and bring some plot-advancing acting into the mix in the very same scenes - is impressive and exciting to watch.
The film features an impressive supporting cast of familiar names and faces: Toby Jones, Mackenzie Crook, Ray Winstone and Arthur Darvill all make significant appearances, and the young Bill Milner has a key role as Dury's son Baxter, an ordinary boy plunged into his hedonistic rock & roll lifestyle.
S&D&R&R has some interesting things to say about disability, and the way we treat the disabled. It is an important part of the film's message that Dury is actually often a quite unpleasant character, treating those close to him appallingly. We have seen the prima donna rock star story a million times, but the in-built dependency on others forced by Dury's weak hand and leg adds an extra dimension.
This is a story about how the thin line between callous and patronising that we all must tread in this area, and about the fact that everyone should benefit from it, not just the people we like.
I've been aware of the Blockhead's music rather than an avid fan but do at least own their greatest hits CD. I also really like my rock'n'roll biopics - from The Doors, 24 Hour Party People and Sid & Nancy. The more honest and frenetic the better. The ups and downs, the grime as well as the fame. That way, we can live for a couple of hours as the 'dream' but knowing as we do, the downsides. I like them a bit mysterious too, with symbolisms and dreams and druggy effects. That way, I tell myself, I don't have to actually do things that like myself, in 'real' life.
So, how does this fit in with those others? Surprisingly well - and better than more sedate reviewers had suggested. In depth, without being overlong, I know more about Dury, his psyche and his life - and I was entertained along the way. Which is about all one can ask for, really. Except, we get get some other great British acting talents adding colour and familiarity to the motley crew and the film's overall colourful tapestry.
Downsides - Yes. A couple. The oft cited film's lack of portraying the big time - 'Hit Me with your Rhythm Stick' stuck out like a sore thumb when it hit no 1 in the UK singles chart. (I remember it on BBC Radio 1's Sunday chart show at the time) More than a novelty song, it really was a breath of fresh air. That must have been on Top Of the Pops - it's certainly on YouTube now. The film should have shown that, at least.
In conclusion, Serkis is great (anyone else being unimaginable) as is the witty script, cast, period detail and most else. Whether a Blockhead fan or not, this film really adds to the line-up of decent music biopics. Like its subject, it's bitty and scurrilous but entertaining enough for most people who want to take a peek behind the scenes of one of music's most charismatic and misunderstood British heroes.
Ian dury was a popular musician in the 1970s but I would hardly call this film a tribute to him. In many ways it is a very sad film because through Andy Serkis, we can get an idea of the musical potential which Dury possessed and that which was surely wasted.
There were many poignant sensitive moments and I really liked the opening sequences; not sure if all the songs in the movie are originally from Dury and his Group and the era? Then suddenly the film began to fall away and the ending was somewhat desperate. As others have commented, there was a lack of cohesion and so maximum 6 for this movie because of that alone.
Not in the same league as Ray, Walk the Line or even This is It and some even wonder who Ian Dury was; a Shakespearean Punk legend with a fabulous use of the English language, alas, mostly put to waste.
One strong message the film gives is in the father-son relationship. Dury clearly loved his Son very much but was lost in his own musical world of what the film title dictated, though there was no sex in this movie and I would not suspect Mr Dury to have been a playboy by the nature of the character acted out by Serkis. Furthermore, we are surely talking about Punk Rock, not rock n Roll, though I know it derives from the title of the song.
I may be wrong here but didn't he also write 'Hit me with your Rhythm Stick'/ I thought that might have been evolved when Mr Dury was in the group meeting with the 'kids' and they started to work on a new song with 'rhythm'.
There are many harsh and uncomfortable moments in the movie but don't be put off and you don't have to be a 70s teenager to enjoy it. All the songs used in the movie are lyrical and worth absorbing in the context of the movie but if it intended to tell the mans life story (such as it was), I am sorry but for me it failed.
Life and times of Ian Dury front man for the group the Blockheads. Andy Sirkis is stunning as the man who over came polio and who ended up changing the world of music and there by the world. Its kind of episodic as Dury's life is inter-cut with a stage performance where he's talking about his life.
I'm of several minds about the film. I really like Sirkis performance and the music (how could one not). I mean its a well made movie. But there is something about it that didn't click with me. On some level the film seems a bit too conventional. Yes, at times its unconventional, but even so it still feels like its trying to be unconventional in a conventional manner.
I'm nitpicking of course since its a solid little film that I wanted to shake me to the core instead of really liking (and I dare you not to be touched during the final moments.) Worth seeing.
The story revolves mainly about the grown up Ian Dury, who seems to spend a lot of time on sex and drugs. He behaves erratically at times, but it seems that the consequences of his actions are not much touched upon. I may have missed what happened after he trashes the studio, but there seems to be no consequences after being taken away by the police. I have to say the story does not connect with me at all. I don't find the characters sympathetic or likable, and I do not care about any of them. I find this film boring and less than engaging.