Monday, May 08, 2006

Overlooked DVD of the month - STONED

Last week, Family007 went to Marrakech to go crazy Brian-Jones style. This gives me the perfect excuse to recommend an interesting small-budget British flick called STONED, recently released on DVD. The movie is a biopic of Brian Jones, the founder Rolling Stone, and spends most of its time focusing on his untimely death. I found the story absolutely compelling, not least because, as a child of my time, I had never really understood how important and talented Jones was. He was basically a middle-class English schoolboy who also happened to be a brilliant Blues guitarist. Having knocked a girl up, he left home to travel, eventually ending up in London where he recruited Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. As the fame and money accrued to the band, the Stones' manager realised the money-making potential of the band writing their own songs, rather than covering old blues standards. As the manager promoted the Richards/Jagger partnership, Jones was edged out of his own band until he was finally, formally sacked. Of course, the rest of the Stones could claim that Jones had made it impossible for them to work with him. He took a lot of drugs, drunk a lot of milk(!) But then, it does seem a bit rich for Richards to sack Jones for doing some drugs, not to mention abandoning him in Marrakech, stealing Pallenberg in the process. Now, I know it's "just a film" but you get the feeling that for director Stephen Woolley (who produced the brilliant movie, The Crying Game) STONED is a labour of love. This lends the narrative a lot of credibility and, despite what I have just said, it never feels like it is made by a Jones-fan who is "out to get" the other Stones.

The movie gets it absolutely right in terms of casting, costumes and sets although it is hard not have a giggle at Paddy Considine's comedy wig and red neckerchief combo. Cleverly, Woolley only ever shows the actors playing Jagger and Richards from a distance or behind suitably flamboyant hair and clothes. This helps blur the lines between iconic faces and actors who actually look very little like them. There are nicely done cameos from David Walliams of Little Britain fame, and David Morrissey of Basic Instinct 2 is brilliantly sleazy as Jones' fixer, Tom Keylock. But for me, once again, it is Paddy Considine who steals the show. His character is a working-class builder called Frank Thorogood. Frank starts out running errands for Jones and is soon his crutch. The relationship works well for a while: the lonely Jones needs constant attention and Frank is just happy to be transported into a Bacchanalian world of hot European blondes and endless boozing.

For me, the movie becomes a little less credible when it focuses on one theory of how Jones' died. (No, not the obvious "he took a bunch of drugs and OD'ed in his pool theory.) I won't spoil the surprise other than to point out that while it is based on a death-bed confession I find the motivation a little weak. Anyways, for all that, this is a highly interesting drama and if you are interested in all things 1960s and/or all things conspiracy, you should check it out.

STONED played at the London Film Fest last November and is now available on DVD.

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