Sex, drugs and rock'n'roll, and the downward spiral all three can inspire.
Brian Jones was the ultimate rock tragedy, dying young, rich and ruined by his own success and the loss of his lover. But the late Rolling Stones founder deserved a better biopic than "Stoned," which focuses on every part of Jones' life that is NOT interesting or insightful.
The movie opens with two flashbacks -- Jones being confronted about a girl he got pregnant, and an early Stones show. Then it flips ahead several years to when builder Frank Thorogood (Paddy Considine) is being hired by soon-to-be-ex Rolling Stone Brian Jones (Gregory), to do work on his new mansion and the grounds surrounding it. Soon he's fascinated by the mercurial Jones.
Jones himself is lost in memories of his glory days of drugs, sex, jetsetting and exotic music -- and especially his former lover Anita Pallenberg (Monet Mazur), who dumped him for his bandmate Keith (Ben Whishaw). He draws Thorogood into a dangerous game of hedonistic fun, until the degraded builder strikes back at him -- with tragic results.
In theory, Jones was the ideal subject for a biopic -- he lived a short, colourful life full of drugs, art and sex. Perfect subjects for a wild movie. Too bad this movie is actually about Frank Thorogood.
Unfortunately director Stephen Woolley doesn't seem to realize that nobody really cares about Thorogood, or why he murdered Jones. What people want is Jones -- tortured artist, forlorn child-man, girlfriend-beating sadist. Woolley provides brief glimpses ("You're fun to wind up") into Jones' psyche, but there's a lot more of Thorogood getting stoned, whining, and jumping on sleeping women.
How did Jones start the Stones? How did fame and drugs change him? How did he deteriorate until his bandmates had to kick him out? Nope, don't expect answers. Instead we get about a hundred lingering shots of the swimming pool on Brian's estate -- thank you for that subtle foreshadowing, Mr. Woolley. We had almost forgotten that Jones drowned in the pool.
In the end, "Stoned" is remarkable more for what it leaves out than for what it contains. Anita, those illegitimate kids, and Jones' musical skills are all sort of pushed to the side so we can see the big bad rock star mess with a country lad. And Woolley NEVER focuses on his relationship with the Stones. It's a shame, because the flashbacks to the Moroccan vacation are the most intense and colourful of the whole movie.
Leo Gregory does a fairly good job with Jones' personality (too bad they look totally unalike). But star is Mazur as the dangerous, charismatic Anita; it's a shame the affair is basically dismissed as a longtime S&M romp. Whishaw and Luke de Woolfson deserve a special shout-out for their portrayals of Richards and Mick Jagger. Neither one has a lot of onscreen time, but they are utterly convincing.
"Stoned" is full of moments that show what the movie could have been, and never was. Instead of a study of a brilliant, manipulative musician, we have a study of how he messed with his gardener. A limp, schizophrenic mess.