Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll (Damian Jones 2009)


“Oi oi!” I’ve just been to see director Damian Jones’s portrait of Stiff’s cockiest cockney, the legendary Ian Dury. Jone’s highly stylized biopic predictably explores – but I don’t think exploits – the disability issue, with Dury hobbling through various moments of rock’n’roll excess in grubbiest London. Andy Serkis, who plays Dury, looks more like a thespian Gary Glitter, but does well in capturing Dury’s charming growl and larger-than-life spirit.

What emerges is a story of fathers, sons, and a quest to compensate not just for polio, but for a kind of inferioity complex that expresses itself in Dury’s family relationships. This, of course is an age-old formula, as biopics generally follow Romanticist tenets by seeing the artist’s life as a series of traumas in which their nose-diving ego flails between broken personal relationships and the precarious recognition of their audience. In order to even connect with a fan base the questing genius must contend with the exploitative relations of the music industry. Entering the commodity form as a celebrity – their version of workaholism – is seen as a compensation that ultimately fails, however, as fame is such a cruel sea.

As we munch our popcorn, ultimately we realize that although performers are hell to live with, these ego-driven specimens more than make up for it with their on-stage charm. The biopic genre therefore becomes an nostalgic exercize (better yet an exorcism). In that respect I would like to have seen more of the pub rock scene and the Stiff Records family represented in this particular movie.

… One wonders what both Jones and Serkis will be up to next on the strength of this one.