I think my review of Stoned, a film about Rolling Stones founder Brian Jones’ last days on Earth, could be summed up with the fact that White Rabbit plays over a drug trip scene. I thought the movie had suddenly switched gears into being a parody – how can you still score a drug scene with such a clichéd song?
But no, Stoned is not a parody. It’s not even funny. Or interesting. Or well made. Or well acted. It’s a terrible, awful film, a slog from beginning to end, a rock movie that feels like it was made by someone who never even heard a rock song. The story of Brian Jones is, in theory, a fascinating one – a founder of the Stones, he drifted away from the band and was found drowned in his pool while the group was at the height of their fame. He’s weirdly disappeared from the general dead rock star consciousness – we all think Jimi, Janice and Jim when it comes to the 60s casualties – but that’s part of what makes the story interesting, that it hasn’t been told a million times already.
But director Stephen Woolley squanders that by dressing his story up in Oliver Stone’s cast-offs, and fashioning the main story – the final weeks of Jones’ life, when a gruff and straight laced builder comes to his mansion to do some renovations and ends up being his babysitter and acolyte – around a series of incomprehensible and seemingly random flashbacks. It makes Stone’s work on DoorsThe Doors all the more impressive, as you see that not just any hack can sit down and make a tripped out movie like that.
But Stoned is broken on every level. The wigs are ludicrous, and often distracting. The acting is atrocious – even Paddy Considine, who I think might be one of the Next Big Things, comes across like a vaudeville version of a working class London boy. Brian Jones was sort of inherently unlikable towards the end of his life, but that’s not helped when Leo Gregory, ensconced beneath a mess of nylon fiber pretending to be long blonde hair, plays him with such disregard for any human qualities. We need to see the hurt boy inside the man (the hurt boy we keep getting shown in the meaningless flashbacks), but we don’t.
The rest of the cast is made up of people who were hired for their looks – doubles for young Mick, Keith and the like – but not their acting chops. David Morrissey plays Tom, the road manager, like he just stepped off the set of The Rutles, a truly embarrassing performance. The women are treated even more tragically, never being allowed to register a real character beyond their naked bodies, often on display.
I struggled through Stoned, foolishly hoping that it would pick up at some point, that this boring rehash would actually cohere into something with a point. It never does, although it finally becomes laugh out loud funny at the finale, as it cycles through about four endings, one of them featuring Brian Jones’ ghost. Please do not take this bit of absurdity as a reason to sit through this piece of shit, though – Stoned is one trip you do not want to take.