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Overall Rating

Awesome: 11.11%
Worth A Look: 0%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad77.78%
Total Crap: 11.11%

1 review, 3 user ratings

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by Peter Sobczynski

"What a drag it is watching this film"
2 stars

For fans of The Rolling Stones, the last few months have been a particularly rough time, even for those used to the constant ups and downs of being a follower of the greatest rock band of all time. Despite months of hype and hope that it might be the first instant classic from the group since 1978's “Some Girls” (generally regarded as their last unqualified masterpiece), “A Bigger Bang” turned out to be a disappointingly anemic collection of tunes that paled in comparison even to their recent output. Their subsequent tour sold tons of tickets but was yet another rehash of old hits that they once again trotted out with the claims that this is what the fans wanted to hear (as if they would suddenly storm out en masse if they cranked out “Soul Survivor,” “Salt of the Earth” or “Crazy Mama”) that culminated with a Super Bowl performance that was notable only for its utter incongruity and their willingness to censor their own songs in order to perform. Now we have “Stoned,” a dreadful new biopic that takes one of the murkier aspects of the band’s history–the still-mysterious 1969 drowning of original guitarist Brian Jones just after being let go from the band because of his escalating bad habits–and explores it in such a trite and unsatisfying manner that it comes off as little more than an especially cheesy episode of “E: True Hollywood Story.”

When Jones was found at the bottom of the swimming pool at his country estate (a place once owned by AA Milne), it was generally assumed at the time that Jones, one of the founding members of the Stones and, some would argue, both the true musical genius and the true sex symbol of the group, was just another young star who suffered a stupid and wasteful death as the result of an overindulgent lifestyle. In recent years, however, speculation has grown that the musician was actually the victim of foul play–a handyman/hanger-on named Frank Thorogood confessed on his deathbed in 1994 that he killed him a couple of days after Jones ordered a halt to the work that he and his crew were doing to the property. Using that premise as the basis, “Stoned” examines the last three or so months of the life of Jones (Leo Gregory), though there are flashbacks to some key earlier moments, and centers on his relationship with Thorogood (Paddy Considine), along with his sexual and chemical excesses, in order to speculate on what really happened when he died.

Not the worst idea for a film but first-time director Stephen Woolley (one of the bigger names in the U.K. film industry thanks to his work as a producer, most frequently with Neil Jordan) has gone about it in such a pedestrian manner that even the most devoted Stones fan will find the film almost impossible to sit through. Some of these problems are the inevitable result of doing a biopic about a person whose look, sound and manner can be easily seen through old film footage–while Considine is okay as the unknown Thorogood, Leo Gregory is never convincing as Jones for a second in a performance that never begins to suggest the charisma, creativity or even the simple physicality of the real-life person. (The less said about the guys who briefly pop up as Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, the better.) The screenplay, by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (the authors of “Die Another Day” and “Johnny English,” which should tell you something about their qualifications), is just another collection of psychedelic-60's cliches without any real feel or understanding for the period. Even the minor details come off as hackneyed–when sexbomb Anita Pallenberg (Monet Mazur) gives Brian his first hit of LSD, Woolley is so uninspired that he actually resorts to playing Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” on the soundtrack. (Speaking of music, the film contains no actual Rolling Stones music–not surprising since Jagger apparently sued to keep this film from going into production over fears of how he would be portrayed–but instead features covers of songs they recorded but didn’t write, including “Love in Vain” and “Time is on My Side,” covered by the likes of The White Stripes and The Bees.)

“Stoned” is a bad little film that is likely to wind up ridiculed and transformed into camp by fans of Jones and the Stones (in much the same way that devotees of The Beatles and John Belushi reacted to “Beatlemania” and “Wired”) and justly ignored by everyone else. This is a bummer because there is definitely something about Jones’s short and fascinating life that could serve as the basis for a compelling film. Unfortunately, the people behind “Stoned” don’t seem to have any idea about what it could be and the result is a film that something that no one could possibly want or need.

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originally posted: 03/24/06 16:06:10
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Edinburgh Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Edinburgh Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Chicago Film Festival For more in the 2005 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

8/21/05 Grant Hayman Dreary and as entertaining as an episode of "Murder she wrote". Avoid! 1 stars
8/04/05 James D White I'm playing Charlie Watts 5 stars
7/30/05 Liv Roberts 2 stars
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  24-Mar-2006 (R)
  DVD: 04-Jul-2006



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