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Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll

Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

ANDY Serkis delivers an awards calibre performance as the late Ian Dury in Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll but the film itself can’t match his efforts.

The main problem with Mat Whitecross’ biopic is that it’s just too stylised and confused for its own good.

An extensive prior knowledge of Dury’s story is required beforehand, while the direction is a little too brash and crass for its own good.

Much like Dury’s real-life perception, the film is easy to admire but difficult to love.

Using a non-linear approach, Whitecross gets all the key elements of Dury’s life in, from the way he contracted polio from a swimming pool as a boy and was crippled, to abandonment by his father into a school for the disabled.

It also charts his rise to becoming one of the leading lights of the punk rock scene of the late ’70s and subsequent debauched lifestyle, right through to embrace and work with his disability in later years and his own relationship with his son.

In doing so, Whitecross not only employs a similar framing device as the one used by the recent Bronson biopic (of having Serkis’ Dury appear before an imaginary audience), but also drops in animated sequences from pop art supremo Peter Blake.

But while certainly never dull, the film never really satisfies on an emotional level and seldom sits still long enough for Serkis to show why Dury was loved as much as he was hated.

Physically and mentally, Serkis is pitch-perfect and is ably supported by the likes of Olivia Williams, as his long-suffering wife, Naomie Harris, as his lover, and Bill Milner, as his son.

But in jumping all over the place time-wise the film never allows Dury’s various relationships the time to develop, even though his multiple personalities, frailties and failings are made painfully apparent.

Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll must therefore go down as an honourable failure as a movie in its own right. But it’s saved, and even elevated, by the bravery and rawness of Serkis’ committed performance.

It remains worth seeing for him alone.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 113mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: May 17, 2010