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THE VERY 'STONED' LIFE AND DEATH OF BRIAN JONES.

Byline: Bob Strauss Film Critic

In 1969, Brian Jones drowned in the swimming pool on his country estate.

It was a few months after he'd been kicked out of the band he'd started, the Rolling Stones, for being, well, too stoned even for a Stone.

The natural assumption was that the dissolute guitarist and multi-instrumentalist had just taken too many drugs and drinks before foolishly going swimming. Yet conspiracy theories soon attached themselves to his death. When Frank Thorogood, a contractor who'd worked for the rock star, confessed on his deathbed to murdering Jones some 24 years after the fact, a movie was bound to result.

That would be "Stoned," and it's an oddity for reasons well beyond its debauched subject matter. The directing debut of the respected British producer Stephen Woolley ("The Crying Game" and many other Neil Jordan films, "Backbeat," "Little Voice"), it has all the sex, decadence and acid-addled surrealism you would expect from a story about the quintessential '60s rock casualty.

But the movie misses its target audience - Stones fans. One of the things that bugs me is that there are no Stones recordings on the soundtrack. Obviously, the songs were either cost-prohibitive, or the band did not want to cooperate - or both.

covers of Robert Johnson songs by the edgeless likes of Haley Glennie-Smith and the Bees don't exactly radiate authenticity. And when a flashback to Jones' first acid trip is accompanied by Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit," you can't help but think that a bit of Jones/Stones psychedelia would not only be more appropriate but far less of a cliche.

Then there's the somewhat problematic casting of Leo Gregory as Jones. Nothing wrong with his performance; the rock star's paranoia, cruelty and needy vulnerability are all quite effectively conveyed, as are his many states of altered consciousness. But, um, how to put this delicately? Wasn't Brian supposed to be The Cute One? That's one characteristic Gregory can't approximate.

Furthering the suspicion that Mick, Keith and Charlie wanted nothing to do with this project, appearances by other band members are kept to an on-screen minimum. Jagger (Luke De Woolfson) pops up mainly to complain about Jones' unreliability and, ultimately, explain the terms of his dismissal. Richards' (Ben Wishaw) primary function is to gallantly rescue Anita Pallenberg when boyfriend Jones gets too crazy even for her. Watts (James D. White) has maybe two lines of dialogue in the whole film. Bill Wyman (Josef Altin) I think just says "OK" when Jones suggests going to the pub.

This isn't as irksome as some of the film's other faults, however.

Although "Stoned" is overburdened with flashbacks and hallucinatory sequences, most of the action takes place at Pooh Corner (the Jones property formerly owned by Winnie creator A.A. Milne), where the rest of the band wouldn't be hanging out anyway. Here, Woolley focuses on the most intriguing part of his movie, the head games between Jones and the initially straight-arrow Thorogood (Paddy Considine, mining rich veins of desire and resentment).

Also quite good are Monet Mazur as the tough, kinky yet fundamentally practical supergroupie Pallenberg (interesting trivia: Mazur's father designed the Stones' lips-and-tongue logo) and David Morrissey as Tom Keylock, the cockney operator who facilitated whatever dirty work the band's business required.

Much of "Stoned" feels well-researched, though some key points can only remain speculative. There's a trove of fascinating details in here that every fan will enjoy. The overall package, though, while not stingy with the sex and drugs, really needed to convey a lot more rock 'n' roll.

Bob Strauss, (818) 713-3670

bob.strauss(at)dailynews.com

STONED - Two and one half stars

(Not rated: sex, nudity, drug use, violence, language)

Starring: Leo Gregory, Paddy Considine, David Morrissey, Monet Mazur, Tuva Novotny.

Director: Stephen Woolley.

Running time: 1 hr. 42 min.

Playing: Landmark's Nuart, West Los Angeles.

In a nutshell: Speculative inquiry into the last days and mysterious death of Rolling Stones founder Brian Jones. Interesting in a druggy, decadent '60s way.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 24, 2006
Words:666
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