Musicians have proven to consistently be a wonderful source
of filmic inspiration. Their enigmatic
personas and lifestyles perfectly suit the constraints of cinema. That is, if the filmmaker treats the subject
In the coming years, the likes of Freddie Mercury, Chuck
Berry, Louis Armstrong, Marvin Gaye, Michael Hutchence and Keith Moon will be
living large once again on the big screen.
That just proves music biopics are far from dwindling. And why should they? If The Buddy Holly Story, Great Balls of
Fire, Ray and Walk the Line are any indication, when done right, music
bios have legs that can last through the box office and into awards season.
Of all films in this sub-genre, only one truly rings true as
equally disturbing and memorable: Alex Cox’s 1986 masterpiece Sid and Nancy.
Spousal and substance abuse, while more often than not a
mainstay in the music industry, has a difficult time finding an audience in
cinemas. Seeing as how Sid and Nancy
has all sorts of abuse in abundance, it is a true testament to the power the
film yields that it has undeniable viewing potential. For the uninitiated, Sid and Nancy is the true story of Sex
Pistols bassist Sid Vicious who goes through a drug-fueled journey with his
girlfriend Nancy Spungen while trying to pursue a solo career. Needless to say, Sid’s journey is a tragic
one, while also being darkly humorous and frightening in equal measure. Even if Sid’s story wasn’t a widely known as
it is in the annals of music history, the audience would still anticipate a
tragic ending based on the sole fact that Sid and Nancy are essentially two
broken creatures looking for love in all the wrong places.
Which is why Sid and Nancy has had such strong staying
power; at its core, it’s a love story, albeit an unconventional one. Sid and Nancy love each other, but sadly,
they love drugs more. It’s what drives
their love for one another, as well as their will to live, which is, in itself,
Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Sid is nothing short of
extraordinary. Oldman is one of the
best chameleons in the business, but his performance is surpassed by Chloe
Webb’s Nancy. The combination of her
broken home life and fun-loving character, while depressing, makes for great
drama and Webb relishes every moment as one of the most iconic figures in punk
While a number of biopics follow the history of their
subject closely, Sid and Nancy uses the history as a backdrop in order to
allow Sid and Nancy to grow organically. So what we see isn’t necessarily what happened in real life, but
it seems authentic because it remains true to whom Sid and Nancy were. Yes, Cox made some controversial decisions
(if you remember the beginning and end of the film, you’ll know what I’m talking
about), but he never presented the film as a fact based biography of Sid and
Nancy. Instead, it is a love story that
happens to involve Sid and Nancy, two broken souls that loved each other to
Sid and Nancy is undoubtedly a depressing film. But it is also required viewing for anyone
interested in a beautifully made character study about two people looking for a
purpose. Furthermore, the film asks,
after finding that purpose, how you can hold on to it. While the answer is horrific, it sheds some
light on two of the most mysterious figures in rock and roll.
Sid and Nancy isn’t necessarily a lost film, but as the
years pass, it is quickly being forgotten.
It should be remembered for the iconic love story it told, as well as a
tribute to a punk who always did things his way.