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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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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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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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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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