BRIAN VINER: A Bowie biopic that lacks Stardust

Stardust (18, streaming)

Rating:

Verdict: A saddening bore

A Christmas Gift From Bob (12A, streaming)

Rating: rating_showbiz_2.gif

Verdict: A whiskery tale

With Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman having blazed a phosphorescent trail in telling the stories of suburban boys with iffy teeth who became music legends, the makers of Stardust understandably thought the time was right to add David Bowie to the list.

They hit on a great title, too, for their account of Bowie trying desperately to build on the success of his 1969 single Space Oddity by cracking America.

It not only refers to Bowie’s androgynous alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, but hints at that mysterious ingredient in the transformation from near-nobody to roaring icon. You need a sprinkling of stardust, kid, as the old movie moguls used to say.

So, nice idea, decent title. So far, so good. What could go wrong from there?

With Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman having blazed a phosphorescent trail in telling the stories of suburban boys with iffy teeth who became music legends, the makers of Stardust understandably thought the time was right to add David Bowie to the list

With Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman having blazed a phosphorescent trail in telling the stories of suburban boys with iffy teeth who became music legends, the makers of Stardust understandably thought the time was right to add David Bowie to the list

Well, apart from the casting, the script, the acting, the music and the wigs, hardly anything does. The cinematography is terrific. 

And the film offers welcome clarification to all those who mispronounce Bowie to rhyme with ‘wow-ee!’ or the soap opera TOWIE, and not with ‘showy’ or Zoe. But ground control to Major Tom, take your protein pills and put your helmets on, because Johnny Flynn, talented actor and singer-songwriter though he is, makes a rotten Bowie.

You need rocket-fuelled imagination to believe that this full-lipped bloke with no discernible cheekbones is the feline, aquiline young Bowie, and sticking a long, lank hairpiece on him makes the effect even funnier. Honestly, you’d laugh him out of a 70s fancy-dress party. Either that, or compliment him for coming as Diana Dors.

Speaking of cheeks, Flynn was last seen baring his backside as George Knightley in the recent big-screen adaptation of Emma. This time he bares his soul and, I have to say, I preferred his bottom.

He portrays Bowie as a tormented neurotic, insecure about his image and convinced he will eventually succumb to full-blown mental illness, like his older half-brother Terry (Derek Moran). It is a hard-working performance, but unconvincing.

The film is set mainly in 1971. While his pregnant wife Angie (Jena Malone, oddly flaunting an Australian accent) is brooding in London, Bowie is on a U.S. promotional tour for his album The Man Who Sold The World. 

Anxiously chaperoned by well-meaning Mercury Records publicity man Ron Oberman (Marc Maron), he is disastrously thwarted by the lack of the visa he needs to perform.

Still, one man’s disaster is another man’s opportunity. 

The filmmakers did not obtain the rights to the original music, so all we get from Flynn’s Bowie are a few covers... of other artists’ songs.

While his pregnant wife Angie (Jena Malone, oddly flaunting an Australian accent) is brooding in London, Bowie is on a U.S. promotional tour for his album The Man Who Sold The World. Anxiously chaperoned by well-meaning Mercury Records publicity man Ron Oberman (Marc Maron), he is disastrously thwarted by the lack of the visa he needs to perform

While his pregnant wife Angie (Jena Malone, oddly flaunting an Australian accent) is brooding in London, Bowie is on a U.S. promotional tour for his album The Man Who Sold The World. Anxiously chaperoned by well-meaning Mercury Records publicity man Ron Oberman (Marc Maron), he is disastrously thwarted by the lack of the visa he needs to perform

That needn’t in itself be an insurmountable problem. It didn’t stop Sam Taylor-Wood, as she then was, making a fine job of Nowhere Boy, her 2009 film about the young John Lennon. But here it just adds

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