While the rest of the Stones prance around global concert stages in advancing codgerdom, original bandmate Brian Jones took the Deborah Harry-championed final exit in 1969 at the tender age of 27.
"Die young, stay pretty," Blondie purred, and Jones did just that, staying beautiful forever. After co-founding one of the greatest rock 'n' roll bands, Jones ended up bobbing face down in a swimming pool.
Stoned is a strange -- and deeply unsatisfying -- exhumation of the Brian Jones legend. Most biopics argue that even if their subjects were no great shakes in the parenting/professional/fidelity department, they are at least charismatic enough to rate a film. Stoned isn't especially persuasive on this count, inarticulate in expressing why Jones is more than of middling interest. Half the time Jones barely registers as a presence, and the rest of the Stones front men -- Mick Jagger, Keith Richards -- are almost as vaporous. The only figure who absorbs a fair amount of the film's attention is Jones' gloomy personal assistant, a man named Frank Thorogood (Paddy Considine) whose life became enmeshed in Jones'.
Director Stephen Woolley's scattered biopicture unearths little beyond the well-known fact that Jones was a drug addict and renowned sex machine. Like other directors rattling around in the '60s bone yard, he injects the requisite sex and psychedelia into his mise en scene.
When in doubt, Woolley cues a montage. And though the acid trip montages of sadomashochistic sex, Nazi uniforms, animal sacrifice and the all-purpose ditty "White Rabbit" suggest depravity, it's mostly just posturing. The post '60s generation that has tried to evoke that era in film often reduces it to fashion, style and attitude so that the actual people who inhabited those flashy, androgynous get-ups become secondary.
The best that can be said for Stoned is that it looks good, in the same way music videos do, with its grainy, retro, perpetually moving montages obviously influenced by films of the time, from Nicolas Roeg's psychedelic Performance to Michelangelo Antonioni's Blowup.
And like Joaquin Phoenix in Walk the Line, who made a conventional biography far more appealing in his eerie impersonation, Leo Gregory does a great physical mimicry of Jones. He has perfected a classic Jones-ian attitude -- of peeking in a half-boyish/half-demonic way out from under his bangs in a way women no doubt found irresistible.
The central fascination of screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade's (Die Another Day) scrambled story is the inadequately developed relationship between Jones and working stiff Thorogood hired to babysit and cater to the musician's every whim while he is ensconced in his East Sussex country manor with his girlfriend.
Though there is potentially interesting material here: Thorogood is obsessed by Jones' decadent lifestyle and at times seems sexually obsessed by the androgynous rocker -- no idea seems compelling enough for longtime film producer and first-time director Woolley to stick with for very long. Woolley sashays from one idea to the next, alighting momentarily on Jones' obsession with the Satanism-dabbling rock muse Anita Pallenberg (Monet Mazur) who Jones may or may not have been devastated to lose.
What Stoned does seem to nail quite well is the snobbery of arriviste rock and roll bohos like Jones, who despite escaping the notoriously rigid British class system, set up their own brand of elitist cool to keep slobs like Thorogood out. One of the creepiest scenes is the one where Jones appears to gift Thorogood with his goddess girlfriend.
"Frank, ever heard of free love?" he smirks, as his lady slouches with legs spread nearby.
In the end, Jones is just vapid and cruel. The film's re-enactment of his death is hardly a shock, just a sorry death in what Woolley makes a pretty sorry scene.
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