[imagesource: Paul Van Carter]
Music biopics are all the rage at the moment, following the tried-and-tested formula where musicians start with humble beginnings, struggle, reach the pinnacle of fame, and then have to overcome some horrendous bump in the road.
Both films were largely a success, in part because the directors and actors tried to stay true to the artists that they were depicting.
Which brings us to the latest addition to what feels like a three-part series: the David Bowie biopic, Stardust.
We’ll ignore the fact that it shares a name with that horrendous film adaptation of a Neil Gaiman novel in 2007, and move on to why Bowie fans are having trouble getting behind this one.
First, some context, from VICE:
The film takes place during Bowie’s first tour of the US in 1971 (as you can imagine, the straight-laced squares of America do not know what to make of this kooky British guy!) and concerns the creation of Ziggy Stardust, his alter-ego and the subject of one of the best rock albums of all time.
The trailer dropped recently, and while there are those that seem excited ahead of its release, others, including Bowie’s son Duncan Jones, aren’t impressed.
In January last year, when the film was in production, he tweeted:
If you want to see a biopic without his music or the families blessing, thats up to the audience [sic].”
Yup, Bowie’s music won’t feature in the film. The filmmakers couldn’t get the rights to it.
Instead of Johnny Flynn, the actor playing Bowie, has written a “new David Bowie” song specifically for the film.
For what it’s worth, Johnny Flynn is a good actor (Beast, for example, is a great film), but it looks like he plays Bowie as slightly the wrong type of weirdo. Bowie might have been a strange guy, but… not like that.
In the trailer, Flynn portrays him as a kind of child-like, gormless Peter Pan figure, when Bowie was always wry, sardonic and kind of aloof.
The trailer appears to depict him as a hapless oddball who literally thought he was a spaceman, rather than an artist crafting a narrative and aesthetic.
We should probably watch that trailer now:
That’s a giant NOPE from me.
A conventional biopic was never going to work. Bowie and his work were otherworldly and visionary.
To depict him within the constraints of a genre so predictable and earthbound feels like an insult.
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