Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll

Mat Whitecross

BY Michael EdwardsPublished Nov 17, 2016

Ian Dury was elevated to the status of national treasure in the UK sometime before his death in 2000 from cancer, so it would make sense that someone would make a movie about his life, which did have its fair share of ups and downs. Yet Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll chooses to focus on the period between 1975 when he was just forming his new band, the Blockheads, and sometime in the '80s when at least his initial glory days were behind him. The film is a mess, but by choice. The director (newcomer Mat Whitecross) states in an interview included as an extra on the DVD that he was trying to make an "alternative biopic" and it shows. It tries exceptionally hard to disorient the viewer with frenetic cuts between different periods in Dury's life and sometimes the quirkiness of it all overwhelms the narrative. Obviously 24 Hour Party People was a big influence on the approach taken by Whitecross – hardly surprising seeing as he co-directed The Road To Guantanamo Bay with Michael Winterbottom – and while the involvement of both chief Blockhead Chaz Jankel and Dury's son, Baxter, implies authenticity, it is hard not to assume that quite a few liberties have been taken with the truth. Fortunately, the entire film is held together by two equally impressive performances. Andy Serkis (best known for his work as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings movies) does an incredible job as Dury; he absolutely nails the voice, both spoken and when performing with the band, throwing himself into every scene with a level of enthusiasm that makes it hard not to like him, even when he's being obnoxious. And that's one thing the film doesn't shy away from: Dury was always known for his temper, so it wouldn't be right to omit those episodes. There is an attempt to rationalize the way he was, with a focus on his polio and the time spent institutionalized as a result, but ultimately it is Serkis's charisma that carries scene after scene. Equally good is Bill Milner (from Son of Rambow) as Baxter. The relationship between Ian and Baxter is the other thread that runs throughout the movie and how many of the same father-son mistakes are being repeated in this new generation. Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll is an entertaining film, to a point, thanks to the motley crew of characters it depicts, but its selectiveness leaves far too many gaps in Dury's story for it to be completely satisfying. The DVD also includes a handful of deleted scenes and some very brief interviews with the director, cast and crew.
(Tribeca Film/New Video)

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