“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.