More noise than signal

Stoned

This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site, theOneliner.com

“Everybody must get stoned”, sang Bob Dylan. If there’s one person who took this to heart it’s the founding member of popular beat combo The Rolling Stones, Brian Jones. Played by Leo Gregory in Stephen Woolley’s account of the latter days of his drug-riddled existence that could best be described as muck-raking, it does its damndest to paint Jones as a posterchild for the arse end of the free-love, hedonistic, long-haired freaky people subculture. Perhaps it succeeds, in a way, but seeing as it shows Jones embodying all of the most negative, self absorbed, pointless characteristics of the movement I’m not convinced that’s a good thing.

Stoned is an account patched together from various sources which Jones-aficionado Woolley clearly regards as definitive, although you’ll have to excuse us if we’re not as trusting of eyewitness reports where we can’t trust the witness’ eyes thanks to copious and repeated druggage. The meat of Stoned concerns Jones’ odd relationship with builder Frank Thorogood (Paddy Considine), who seems to have spent more time cooking, playing cricket and drinking with his client than actually building things. Given Jones’ flighty approach to design specs, perhaps that’s just as well.

There’s a few salient details on the formation of the Stones, with Jagger (Luke de Woolfson), Richards (Ben Whishaw) and Watts (James D. White) showing up although as this flick isn’t about the musical output of the band, just the lifestyle it enabled them to lead, their significant input generally being the firing of Jones leading to another depressive cycle. No, this is a film about Jones, his relationships and his addictions. His lovers over the timespan that Stoned rolls [rotten pun #1 in an occasional series] around in, Anita Pallenberg (Monet Mazur) and Anna Wohlin (Tuva Novotny) are featured more heavily, but wind up having as little significance. Jones, or this version of Jones at least, seems content to let his addictions to narcotics define his character and more often than not actions.

Thorogood and Jones make an odd couple; Jones a dandified, upper-middle classed pseudointellectual and Thorogood a gruff, ex-Army working class brickie. Their becoming friends is a little strange, the undercurrent of unspoken sexual attraction even more so. Still, Considine and Gregory play their parts well enough, and if you’re left cold by Stoned [rotten pun #2 in an occasional series] it’s likely to be through no direct fault of the actors.

It’s obvious Woolley has great affection for the subject matter and the era. The costume design is appropriately ludicrous, the soundtrack pleasingly fitting as you might expect. If there’s anything wrong with the direction it’s the use of the continued battered cliche of running the video through a random selection of postproduction filters in Adobe After Effects after someone takes a tab of LSD. Never touched the stuff myself, and if all it does is overexpose your vision then swap RGB values with gay abandon then I think I’ll continue to abstain, thanks. The problem this flick faces is simply the inescapable fact that it’s about Brian Jones.

If there’s a point to Stoned I don’t see it, and if there was a point to Brian Jones I don’t see that either. He took a lot of drugs, you say? Fancy that! Of course, this is from the perspective of someone who doesn’t give two hoots about Jones, or his status and worthiness in the Rock ‘n’ Roll pantheon. The Jones presented here is a weak, nasty little egotist with no self control and no obvious use. He doesn’t do a lot of Rock ‘n’ Rolling for a Rock ‘n’ Roller, although admittedly he’s got the Sex and Drugs part down pat.

If you’ve already raised Jones onto a pedestal for whatever reason you’ll probably get a lot more joy out of this outing. It also falls fouls of my zero tolerance policy of describing anyone who died as a result of relentless abuse of their own body through either drugs or sheer stupidity as ‘a tragic waste’. See also Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, River Phoenix, John Belushi, Timmy Mallet. If we’re only going by the evidence presented by Stoned, Brian Jones wasn’t a wasted talent, he was a waste of oxygen.

Bereft of any Stones specific interest, Stoned is reduced to a relationship drama with an utterly unlikable lead, and one who at any rate seems to have a meaningful relationship only with various powders. This is beginning to sound more like a review of Jones’ lifestyle choices than about an actual film of them, but I’m sure you’ll understand how inextricably they’re linked. He’s just not a likable character, so this isn’t a likable film. It’s a chore to watch for the most of it, and not a chore worth doing for all but the most ardent Stones fans.

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