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Review: “sex & drugs & rock & roll,” but the same old biopic story.

Review: “sex & drugs & rock & roll,” but the same old biopic story. (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival.

Looking more like Uncle Fester from “The Addams Family” on a steady diet of NutriSystem and Rogaine than the man he’s actually playing, Andy Serkis seems to be having a blast as ’70s British music icon Ian Dury in the biopic “sex & drugs & rock & roll.” If only the words I want to use to describe his performance — charismatic, compelling — also applied to the movie around him. Though Dury was an atypical rock star in a lot of ways — including a complicated relationship with his estranged wife (Olivia Williams) and troubled son (“Son of Rambow”‘s Bill Milner) and a lifelong physical disability caused by a childhood bout of polio — “sex & drugs & rock & roll” is a pretty typical music biopic, from Serkis’s impressive-but-showy lead performance to a flashback structure that lets its hero guide us back through their rise to stardom, struggles with drugs and/or alcohol, poor treatment by and of women, and the rocker’s inevitable reemergence as a more centered and complete person. There’s even time for a few complete musical numbers, with Serkis singing impressive vocals to backing tracks provided by Dury’s old band, The Blockheads.

A few segments dare to think big — one particularly memorable one transforms Dury’s drunken collapse in a pool into a full-on underwater concert from Dury and The Blockheads — but most of the film settles into a increasingly predictable rhythm of Dury getting fucked up, pissing off his loved ones and performing one of his hits. The big dilemma of a film like this is deciding what to include and what to leave out from a story that lasted decades in a film that lasts less than two hours. In this case, director Mat Whitecross decided to focus mostly on the soap opera of Dury’s private life, particularly his refusal to divorce Williams’ Betty for his girlfriend Denise (Naomie Harris), instead of providing more details about Dury’s musical career or the scope of his cultural importance. Whitecross was Michael Winterbottom’s collaborator on his recent documentaries like “The Road to Guantanamo” and “The Shock Doctrine,” but if Winterbottom, director of the musical biopic classic “24 Hour Party People,” gave Whitecross any advice about balancing the macro and micro viewpoints of an artist’s life, it didn’t help the finished product.

04232010_Serkissexdrugsrocknroll1.jpgAt one point in the film, Dury gives his son an action figure of the Incredible Hulk, and there are some similarities to be drawn between the rampaging comic book monster and the irrepressible, wild man rocker. But “sex & drugs & rock & roll” is more like the Hulk’s alter ego, Bruce Banner: timid and academic. Serkis is good in the role, and I imagine Dury die-hards will enjoy the movie more than I did, getting a bigger kick out of seeing him bring their idol and his music back to life. Everyone else will leave the theater scratching their heads, wondering what made this emotional mess with the eccentric fashion sense so unique when his life on screen bears such a striking resemblance to others we’ve seen before.

“sex & drugs & rock & roll” is now available on VOD and will open in New York at the Tribeca Cinemas in New York on May 5th.

[Photos: “sex & drugs & rock & roll,” Tribeca Film, 2010]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

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Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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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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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

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