It may not have been wanted by a number of David Bowie devotees – including the singer’s own son Duncan Jones – but is Stardust worth the controversy that came with it?
Set in 1971, David Bowie (EMMA. star Johnny Flynn) heads out on a US publicity tour where he lies on the brink of true greatness but is in need of some guidance and ironically for Bowie, being brought back down to earth.
Paired with Mercury Records’ Ron Oberman (Marc Maron), Bowie faces some soul searching as this odd couple travels and the musician performs some rather disappointing gigs.
Amidst this, Bowie recalls a troubled familial background as the tour and his past help him in his transformation to become his iconic alter-ego of Ziggy Stardust.
So, does this film – made a mere four years after Bowie’s death – do justice to the Hunky Dory star?
Among the many pitfalls in Stardust, the most glaring has to be the lack of Bowie’s iconic songs, which are such a true example of his genius and staying power and of which convince the audience of the character’s true artistry.
While the admirable work of Johnny Flynn convinces us that the actor and musician has got some good pipes on him, he fails to deliver Bowie’s signature stage presence and when lacking the legendary songs of the singer, fails to make an impact.
Additionally, while convincing enough in showing some of Bowie’s personal traumas, the writing provided fails to offer any psychological insight into its subject, proving the death knell in Flynn’s attempt at a portrait of Bowie.
There is no convincing, detailed or well-drawn journey here and instead his character arc feels half-hearted. Also absent is an almost alien-like uniqueness to the Bowie we see on-screen and beyond fans recognising some occasional wardrobe choices, you probably wouldn’t know who this person was supposed to be.
Of the supporting performances, Maron is reliable enough in the sort of brutally honest and practical manner he usually delivers, while Jena Malone brings some welcome charisma and snark with her take on Angie Bowie.
Sadly, none of the relationships, particularly the vital sibling relationship of Bowie’s past fail to resonate and feel well-drawn enough to latch onto. Again, this mostly feels down to the script from director Gabriel Range, whose directorial style fails to make an impression despite still keeping proceedings somewhat watchable.
Ultimately, Stardust is a disappointing biopic of a musical Titan that fails to capture either the art and – most importantly – the artist.
Stardust fails to do justice to musical icon David Bowie, with the lack of his back catalogue feeling especially absent, along with an inability to capture his unique and otherworldly essence.
Stardust is available now on digital platforms in the UK.
What is your favourite biopic about a musician? Let us know in the comments below.
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