Aladdin Sane , Ziggy Stardust , the Thin White Duke and Major Tom were all preferable in the world of Rock & Roll when your real name is David Jones aka David Bowie. It’s now been five years since Bowie passed away and in that time we’ve seen celebrated and Oscar winning biopics for Freddie Mercury and Elton John and as Bowie is held in the same if not higher esteem it’s little wonder that interest in a biopic was high. However when his estate don’t support it and use of his huge back catalogue of songs has been blocked it makes it less than easy. So what we have is Stardust that focusses on 1971 where, having made his name with a A Space Odyssey, he now faces what could best be described as the difficult second album and no one was interested. The first single has bombed in the US and the record company exes aren’t interested in promoting him further. Except for one publicist Ron Oberman (Marc Maron) who is the only one prepared to take him on a promotional tour of the US.
So what we have with Stardust is something of a road movie as aspiring pop star and his PR drive across the US playing to prospective fans….except he doesn’t have a work permit to do so and instead finds himself playing to a vacuum cleaner convention and doing interviews for cynical rock journos which ends in Bowie doing a ‘man stuck behind a glass wall’ mime. It’s the stuff of Spinal Tap and quite how true these episodes are is unknown because right from the start the film states, ‘What follows is (mostly) fiction’.
With Bowie struggling to break the US he is haunted by memories of his brother Terry who suffered from mental health issues that had him committed and a fear that he might be following his brother there also. Neither is he helped by his wife Angie, the last sympathetic person in the whole film played he by Jena Malone as a screeching self absorbed bisexual harridan pregnant with his first child. It’s his manager who is easiest to empathize with , believing in the musician’s talent but battling to drum up interest with jaded journos and a pop star with seemingly a streak of self destruction when blurts our controversial quotes in radio interviews. It’s little wonder he gets quickly irritated by Bowie reading him the riot act.
As with Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman this very much centres on a crucial central performance and her its Johnny Flynn . Stardust sees Bowie as camp, fey and somewhat self indulgent looking at times a bit like actor Rhys Ifans and frequently sounding more like Mick Jagger. It’s probably the final scenes where Flynn emerges as Bowie in his new on stage persona Ziggy Stardust (albeit looking a little too much like Coronation Street’s legendary Elsie Tanner) that he really nails the stars mannerisms but by then we’ve had an hour and a half of another Bowie but perhaps that’s the point of the man who regularly reinvented himself.
There are so many chapters in Bowie’s life that are of interest but saddled with a block on his musical back catalogue its understandable why this little known one might be the one filmmakers went for and perhaps this was the only way to do a Bowie biopic but Stardust is unlikely to please fans.
Here’s the Stardust trailer……..