Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll
(18) 113 min
Michael Winterbottom protégé Mat Whitecross (The Road to Guantanamo, The Shock Doctrine) shows a previously unseen penchant for the spectacular in this amusing biopic of Ian Drury. Whitecross sets up the story as a vaudeville act fronted by the musician in which fantasy, dreams and realism are mixed to discuss Drury’s life in a thematic rather than chronological manner. Stylistically, it’s reminiscent of Bronson, Nicolas Winding Refn’s excellent 2008 biopic on notorious prisoner Charles Bronson.
Andy Serkis plays Drury as a brash, no-nonsense and often confused man, whose rebellious nature made him a charismatic personality, terrible lover and great songwriter (he penned such classics as ‘Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick’ and ‘What a Waste’). It’s a bravado performance that plays to Serkis strength as an actor, a tough guy with no fears. This does, though, cause problems especially when Whitecross wants to show Drury’s more tender side and such is Serkis presence on screen that the performances of his fellow actors struggle in his shadow.
Olivia Williams who plays his first wife Betty and Naomie Harris who plays his groupie mistress are not given sufficient work to play with, especially as it’s this love triangle around which the action set in reality revolves. At other times, we enter the mind of Drury, but the flashbacks to his troubled relationships with his father (Ray Winstone) and schoolteacher (Toby Jones) are dealt with too heavy-handedly and feel clichéd.
Much more successful is the treatment of Drury’s various illnesses: his diagnosis with polio aged 10; his efforts to raise awareness of autism in 1982 and death following a cancer battle almost 10 years ago. The song ‘Spasticus Autisticus’ gets an excellent outing. Indeed it’s one of the main attractions of the movie that the songs feature strongly and Whitecross doesn’t try to show a refined taste and thankfully veers towards the classics. Many of the songs are accompanied by colourful music videos that punctuate the action and serve as reminders of Drury’s days as an art student. Largely entertaining, but not without fault, much like Drury himself.
General release from Fri 8 Jan.