The opening night of my Tribeca Film Festival experience began with the showing of Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll. Being a biopic of the late, great Ian Dury, I decided to do a little research on the English rocker beforehand. Relatively ignorant to music of the ’70s and ’80s, I was happy to find that Dury’s life was everything but ordinary, setting the foreground for an exhilarating film with limitless possibilities.
And that life was portrayed flawlessly by Andy Serkis, who finds himself equally capricious compared to past roles, like Gollum in Lord of the Rings. Taking on the inner demons of Dury, including a polio-stricken childhood, tainted family life, and an addiction to drugs and alcohol, Serkis is able to connect to Dury diehards and newcomers alike. The rest of the cast successfully follows suit, as their smaller roles all lend a significant hand in forming a cohesive story.
Early on, however, it is hard to determine if the film is going to be a dreary examination of Dury’s troubles or a celebration of his illustrious and innovative career. Would it focus on his chart topping hits or the rather cliché relationship quandaries that haunted him throughout? Employing a slew of chaotic flashbacks, whimsical effects, and even complete song performances, director Mat Whitecross has just as much trouble finding a comfortable niche. While he does come close to depicting the distressed musicians at times, there was too much focus on personal issues, rather than the musical bravado that seemed to triumph. The movie certainly had its moments, but Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll simply fails to take many risks.