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“Stoned”: Sex and drugs, a little light on the rock ‘n’ roll

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The musician biopic has come into its own, or at least a kind of middlebrow prestige, with “Ray” and “Walk the Line” scoring award nominations by molding their respective subjects’ lives into a standard narrative arc of troubled childhood/rise to success/drug abuse/redemption, with a hearty dash of half-assed psychoanalysis thrown mixed in. Early Rolling Stones member Brian Jones isn’t so convenient a focus — after being kicked out of the band in his mid-20s, he lolled around Sussex, drinking, dallying with a succession of girlfriends and playing at remodeling his house, before turning up dead in the pool at the rock star-approved age of 27, his life less an arc than a mild incline. But Stephen Woolley’s rambling “Stoned” is less concerned with Jones’ life than with the mystery surrounding his death, which the film, with admirable effrontery, purports to solve.

For the bulk of “Stoned,” Jones, played by Leo Gregory as if he were always remembering something funny but trying to keep a straight face, is already ensconced in his countryside home with his Swedish girlfriend and nothing much to do. The Stones’ road manager Tom (David Morrissey), sends his friend Frank Thorogood over as much to babysit and entertain Jones as to work on the house. As played by Paddy Considine, Thorogood is the embodiment of the Britain’s bewildered older generation, both drawn to and disapproving of Jones’ super-60s decadence, which we see more of in flashbacks to Jones’ troubled relationship with Anita Pallenberg (Monet Mazur) — cocaine, wild sex, drinking, clubbing, S&M and, most shocking of all, dropping acid to the tune of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit,” a combination so gratingly obvious it we could almost hear the theater’s eyes roll in unison.

Jones and Thorogood start up a kind of sadistic, codependent friendship in which Jones both depends on Thorogood for company and plays extensive, cruel mind games with him. For his part, Thorogood does a lousy job as a builder, but latches desperately onto the escape from grim London life Jones provides. Because Thorogood is played by the awkward, pasty, compelling Considine, who can be brilliant at personifying pent-up, working-class rage, he’s naturally more sympathetic than Jones, who’s portrayed as both self-pitying and malicious, and who the film never tries too hard to convince us is that great of a musician anyway. Jones toys with both his Swedish actress girlfriend Anna and with Frank, who end up competing for his mercurial affections (and the cash flow that comes with them).

When Jones finally tries to cut ties with Thorogood, and an infuriated Thorogood drowns him in the pool, the effect is less tragic than relieving — finally! Maybe the fault is Gregory’s, for not getting under the skin of the character enough to make him more than a smirking cipher, but I’m inclined to think it’s more Woolley’s — the director spells out his intentions in a closing scene in which manager Tom imagines a conversation with Jones’ ghost, who watches mourners come to the side of the pool in which he died, and who thanks Tom for making him a martyr, rather than just a failed musician. So, screw the “Behind the Music” biopic formula — is that what it’s all about? Staying young, wild and talented, while the 60s faded and passed? Because from here, it’s looking more like a story of the death of arrogant, self-absorbed prat who the world has already half-forgotten.

“Stoned” opens in New York and LA on March 24 (official site).

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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