Dir: Stephen Woolley. UK.2005. 102mins.
Veteran UK producerStephen Woolley makes an accomplished directorial debut with Stoned, anabsorbing portrait of Brian Jones, the founding member of The Rolling Stones,and the events surrounding his death on July 2, 1969. Rich in period atmosphereand music, the film possesses the same knowing style and historical intrigue asScandal and Backbeat, both of which Woolley produced.
Like those titles, Stonedshould cause a stir in theatrical markets (it is pencilled in for a November 11release in the UK), especially given the publicity that will be generated byits rock legend subject, the salacious alleged murder at its heart and theenduring popularity of the Stones themselves who have a new CD and tour whichkicks off later this month.
Playing at a slew of filmfestivals this season - it enjoys a world premiere at Edinburgh, followed by Toronto,San Sebastian, Rio De Janeiro, Dinard and Stockholm - Stoned will pickup attention wherever it screens, setting tongues to wagging and journalists toscribbling.
Based on three bookspublished in the 1990s, the film explores the last three months of Jones' lifein which Frank Thorogood, the builder renovating his country pile, developed aclose relationship with his new boss and was present the night when he drownedin his swimming pool. Both Thorogood and Jones had been taking large quantitiesof drugs and alcohol. A verdict of death by misadventure was recorded at thetime.
In 1993, on his deathbed,Thorogood allegedly confessed that he murdered Jones. The subsequent books,including one by Jones' Swedish girlfriend Anna Wohlin, who was also at thehouse on the fateful night, all asserted that the death was not accidental.
Playing Thorogood andproving again that he is one of the UK's most compelling actors is PaddyConsidine, this time sporting a thick London accent. A veteran of World War II,Thorogood was a fairly straight fellow who lived a dreary life in post-warsuburbia.
When his best friend, theslick, dubious Stones manager Tom Keylock (Morrissey) enlists him to supervisesome home improvements at Cotchford Farm, the East Sussex house where Jones(Gregory) lives, Thorogood is reluctant to take on the job and immediatelyresistant to the neuroses and apparent helplessness of the rock star.
Slowly, however, he becomesintoxicated by Jones' charisma, sexual magnetism and louche lifestyle. Despitecontinuous mockery and taunts from Jones and his entourage, Thorogood proves adependable housekeeper, cook and friend, and even becomes sexually enamoured ofhis boss.
But Jones, who had longsince stopped working with the band and was burning through money fed him bythe Stones organisation with increasing resistance, never treats his builder asanything more than a glorified servant.
Jones himself is cursed by alack of work ethic and self-discipline, some extreme sexual peccadillos and anincreasing propensity to self-destruction. Although the unquestioned guidinghand behind the creation and musical direction of the Stones, he was fired fromthe band shortly before his death and had lost the love of his life AnitaPallenberg (Mazur) to Keith Richards (Whishaw).
The film is most beguilingas a portrait, never more relevant than in today's celebrity-obsessed popularculture, of that mysterious star quality possessed by figures like Jones andthe allure it holds for the people around them. The glamour, affluence andsexual shenanigans of the famous are in this case dangerously bewitching to thecommon man.
The chief shortcoming with thefilm lies in its narrative structure. As scripted by Robert Wade and NeilPurvis, Stoned attempts to tell the history (in flashback) of Jones andthe band's rise to fame, in parallel with the Jones/Thorogood story.
While the Jones/Stonesbackground gives context to the Jones character, it distracts from theJones/Thorogood story which in itself is more dramatic. Likewise the film'spoint of view veers between Jones and Thorogood, who is arguably - ironically -a more fascinating character.
Woolley displays asecond-nature grasp of his camera and his actors and pulls off some memorablescenes, notably one in which Wohlin (Novotny) is goaded by Jones to seduceThorogood as well as the tense climactic build-up to the drowning.
Leo Gregory, a young Englishactor with upcoming credits including Green Street Hooligans and TristanAnd Isolde, is generally successful at creating a seductive character inthe amoral Jones, a former public school boy who commanded the respect of hismusical peers like Hendrix and Lennon before his death at the age of 27.
The director did not enlistthe participation of the surviving Stones in the production, and ensures thatRichards and Mick Jagger are secondary characters with little part to play inthe downward spiral of Jones' life.
Like with The Beatles in Backbeat,there is no Stones music on the soundtrack; instead the film effectivelyemploys the blues standards which were covered by the Stones in Jones' time aswell as other classics of the period like White Rabbit, Lazy SundayAfternoon and Time Is On My Side.
Number 9 Films
Finola Dwyer Productions
based on and inspired by Paint It Black by Geoffrey Giuliano, WhoKilled Christopher Robin' by Terry Rawlings and The Murder Of BrianJones by Anna Wohlin