Velvet Goldmine (Film) Review

Never knowingly underdressed

Another week has just passed us by and we’re bringing you another Ewan McGregor flick because, well, do we really need a reason? He gets his willy out in this one if that’s any consolation (probably not TBF) – plus, it really is rather a glamorous thrill ride this one (the film, not the willy).

Relax, I’m not going to make this entire post all about the swinging appendage that is Ewan McGregor’s front junk but I would like to. Luckily for all concerned, this film has enough else going for it that I won’t need to mention it again (maybe once more).

It’s my choice this week, next week we’ll be spending time in Hell with the Cenobites once more (or will we?). Until then, it’s platform heels and crushed velvet bell bottoms all the way.

Shall we begin, class?

*As always spoilers*

Velvet Goldmine (1998)

Director: Todd Haynes
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Jonathon Rhys Meyers, Toni Collette, Eddie Izzard, Christian Bale

IMDB Synopsis: In 1984, British journalist Arthur Stuart investigates the career of 1970s glam superstar Brian Slade, who was heavily influenced in his early years by hard-living and rebellious American singer Curt Wild.

My Review:

Arthur Stuart (Bale) is a journalist tasked with finding out what happened to notorious glam rocker Brian Slade, after an ill-advised publicity stunt all but obliterates his career in the seventies. It is now 1984 and things look pretty grey in comparison to the Technicolor disco ball dream of the swinging seventies.

Stuart is himself gay and following a series of vignettes, we learn a few things about his difficult personal journey and how it runs parallel with the lives and loves of Slade himself, and Slade’s long-term inspiration, Curt Wild.

Importantly, we get to see just how these men have had a personal influence on Arthur.

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The polar opposite of glamorous

Whilst seeking out Brian Slade, Arthur interviews a collection of people who have been touched in some way or another by the enigmatic and flamboyant star, including Slade’s one time wife, Mandy Slade; his former manager and a lot of people in between.

The question on Arthur’s mind (and thus, ours) is: what became of Brian Slade and where the fuck is he now?

VG undulates all over the place time-wise so this post will be anything but linear. It doesn’t matter at all though as the meandering lends the film a dreamy tone that compliments its subject matter. Plus, you mostly just came along for the ride, didn’t you?

Arthur’s memories help us piece together a picture of what his home life was like before he fell into the glam rock lifestyle and essentially finally found himself a tribe to which he belonged. Like Bowie did for many people, so Brian Slade and later, Curt Wild gave Arthur the inner strength to find himself and later come out, to the horror of his conservative parents.

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“Mum! I’m just popping down Tesco, need anything?!”

On the night of the ‘assassination of Brian Slade’ (which is later uncovered to be a hoax), Arthur is there and this act proves to be a turning point in not only his life, but Slade’s too.

The trajectory of Slade’s glittering career isn’t perfect, however after years on the circuit without much to show for it, things start to look up for him. He ditches his loyal manager, Cecil (Michael Feast) for the slightly more funky Jerry Devine (Izzard) and things happen fast.

Slade also meets the fabulous Mandi and the pair quickly marry. They’re very much an ‘It’ couple, though it’s an open relationship where anything goes for our sexually fluid friends. Everyone’s happy and free until Slade travels to America to connect with a performer he’s had his eye on from almost the start, one Curt Wild.

(Our first introduction to Curt Wild is a rousing stage scene in which he gets stark bollock naked and fondles himself while the crowd jeers).

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“Shit, Adam Ant’s over there, he’ll be wanting his jacket back.”

Slade gets his way and Wild comes to England to cut a record with him, though he brings with him his own battered baggage (junkie, innit). The pair share a connection that threatens the future of The Slades’ marriage and will change the course of all their lives forever.

Fame is also a bitch and as the pair get more and more known, and Slade allows himself to be taken over by his alter-ego “Maxwell Demon”, things start to fall apart irrevocably. Not to mention the fake shooting which fans are not at all amused by.

The breakdown off the Slades’ marriage is told to Arthur by Mandi herself, now nursing a stiff whiskey in a dive bar in London. She looks broken, a former shadow of her glitter bug self. Time has not been kind it would seem, and neither was Brian at the end of their bitter-sweet time together. You can’t help but feel sorry for her.

FYI, Slade-era Mandi has THE BEST WARDROBE EVER *heart eyes emoji*.

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Fucking fabulous forever

Meanwhile, Arthur is still searchin’ and hopin’ – and coming up empty handed. There’s no Brian Slade in the phone book, see. But his investigation leads him back to Curt Wild, who it turns out, has met Arthur before, though it’s not clear if he remembers. Arthur does though and the two share a moment.

Arthur has also been taken off the Slade story due to lack of public interest and put on coverage of the Tommy Stone tour. What does it all mean really?

Questions:

Will Arthur finally work out the big mystery?

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“Must pick up bleach on the way home…”

My Thoughts:

Loved it I did. I can’t believe it’s taken me 18 years to watch this movie. The performances are great across the board but I do feel as though this movie belongs to Toni Collette, who injects humanity into quite a superficial character, during quite a superficial period.

Ewan is perfect in all his Iggy Pop-esque glory and gives Curt heart where he could easily have been just another broken casualty of a hardcore lifestyle. I really believe that Curt loved Brian Slade, and it was beautiful and heartbreaking in equal measure.

I don’t like Rhy Meyers for some reason. I think it’s his haughty face which I’ll admit is perfect for Slade. Brian Slade isn’t one for heavy dialogue, he sings and he looks beautiful, those are his USPs. When he disappears you almost don’t notice, it’s like he was never really there, never really real. (Ooh deep).

I didn’t altogether buy the ending, it doesn’t seem feasible to me so I might need to talk that out with you, Jill! I was all a little like WHAAAAAAA? as the credits rolled. Maybe I misunderstood but it doesn’t ring very true to me. It’s almost like the ‘Grease ending’ – where the fuck did the flying car suddenly come from?

That’s my only criticism. This film was more or less made with me in mind.

I love that you can easily recognise real life performers here in their loose fictional disguises – Bowie! Pop! Bolan! – and it’s super fun. I also loved the smaller cameos throughout – Brian Molko! – the costume design, the music. It’s spot on.

My Rating: 4.5/5 -My disbelief in the ending is the only thing that marks this down. 

Did Jillian want to kick up her platform boots and dye her mullet baby blue or is she ready to say goodbye to Glam Rock forever? See for yourself here.

NB: I nearly went on strike writing this review as I kept losing my work and had to type it from scratch at least twice. I nearly marked the film down for my technological frustrations, GODFUCKINGDAMMIT!

I’m over it now.

Hector and the Search for Happiness (Film) Review

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I found this film on Netflix not long ago and couldn’t contain my glee. Jillian felt the same when I mentioned it and emailed me to say she was watching Hot Fuzz (2007) in anticipation of this week’s pick. Call me shallow but I measure the essence of a person by how much they love Simon Pegg and I’m very sure Jillian is one of the greatest living people.

I love SP with the fire of a thousand suns. Spaced (1999) is my favourite TV show of all time (neck and neck with The Sopranos (1999-2007) if I’m honest), and I love the Cornetto Trilogy (yes, even The World’s End (2013)). So I had high hopes for this adventurous tale of a man looking for the secret to happiness (not ‘happyness’ à la Will and Jaden Smith).

Did it live up to my hopeful expectation? Do I still love the Pegg? Shall I save my Qs for the question section at the end of this review, as is traditional? I think I will, aye.

As always *Spoilers!*

Oh, and at this stage I think the theme is ‘whatever we fancy’, though this is quite firmly and unabashedly a romance, I would say. Lovely, lovely romance.

Hector and the Search for Happiness (2014)

Director: Peter Chelsom
Stars: Simon Pegg, Rosamund Pike, Toni Collette, Stellan Skarsgård

IMDB Synopsis: A psychiatrist searches the globe to find the secret of happiness.

My Review:

Hector has a very neat and nice life. Everything is just so. He has a beautiful girlfriend called Clara who is willing to facilitate this niceness (and pack him exquisitely tidy pack lunches, tie his ties, etc). He has a good job (psychiatrist) and everything’s just dandy, if a little uninspiring. But is he happy?

It seems like Hector has the blues and he isn’t sure why. He’s even eyeing his ‘maddest’ patient Roger with some envy all because he seems delighted with his own lot in life. (Roger thinks he’s a Ferarri, then a bingo caller).

One day, after being lap danced by a belly dancer in an Indian restaurant, he gets to thinking.

“You will go on a journey, and then when you get back, you’ll make Spaced series 3… oooooooooooo!”

This state of reflection is further exacerbated by a spiritual patient who predicts Hector will go on a long journey. We also learn here (I think) that Hector is an only child and something happened to his dog in his childhood, which would explain the dream he has at the beginning of this film, and the canine iconography throughout.

So one night Hector asks Clara if she’s happy and she spins immediately into suspicious territory, believing he wants to break up with her. This isn’t helped by the fact that she finds an old photograph of Hector with a woman called Agnes in his sock drawer, around the same time he tells her he’s going off in search of himself.

“I always wear my spectacles when I’m answering existential questions, obvs.”

Despite her fears, Clara tells Hector if he’s going to search for happiness he needs to go all in and gives him her blessing. She also packs him an adorable travel journal and urges him to fill its pages. Which he does, with aplomb.

Hector’s first stop is China and following a mix up with his seat, finds himself in Business Class next to Stellan Skarsgård‘s grouchy businessman, Edward. Despite a rocky start, by the time the two men touch down in Shanghai, they’re practically Bros. (SP is so adorable and goofy you’d have to have a heart of stone not to fall for him, is the message here).

“I loved you in Spaced.”

Edward thinks that you can buy happiness and luckily for him, he is dripping in moolah. He enjoys the finer things in life and takes Hector on a tour of his Shanghai, where the booze flows and dancers hula hoop on podiums in nightclubs (at least I know I could go down this road if all else fails). Is Edward right about being able to buy happiness though? His underlying sadness would suggest not.

In da club, Hector meets an incredibly beautiful student called Ying Li and is quick to snog her face off and take her back to his hotel room. However, while Ying is slipping into something more comfortable, Hector falls asleep. When he awakes in the middle of the night, he covers up her naked body and puts on his PJs. Respect, innit?

Later, over lunch, Hector is dismayed and betrayed to discover Ying Li has an agenda (and a pimp); just as he was beginning to wonder if happiness was about loving two women at once.

“Drugs, anyone?”

Onto Africa, where things take a dramatic turn. Hector meets a notorious drug lord (Jean Reno), makes friends with an entire community, is carjacked and kidnapped, tries sweet potato stew for the first time and helps some injured children. It is here that he learns the value of life and how precious it really is.

“Raise your drink if you love Simon Pegg!”

Meanwhile, via Skype, Clara is getting fed up with waiting for her man to return and makes it clear she just wants ‘to know’. Hector is being evasive which might have something to do with his next port of call: Los Angeles, home of Agnes, Hector’s former flame and possible love of his life. Cad.

On arrival, Hector meets up with Agnes and Imma leave that there because I don’t want to show my entire hand too soon, you know? It’s worth watching this film yourself to find out.

Along the way, though, I can reveal, Hector meets Professor Coreman (gorgeous Christopher Plummer, who reminds me of a nicer version of my grandfather), who has just published his own book on the pursuit of happiness. He’s a twinkly eyed soul and a bit of a character, but will he help Hector on the final leg of his Happiness Tour? Well, you know what time it is? Question time!

Will Hector ever be happy? Will he get the girl, and if so, will he chose the right one? Will he return to the life he had, to the organised prison of his own mind, or will he be free? Will he be more careful in the future when visiting war-torn parts of Africa, given that his friend (and guide) PICKED HIM UP FROM THE AIRPORT WITH AN ARMED BODYGUARD?

More importantly, will Simon Pegg ever do wrong in my eye? (Not a euphemism, although I probably wouldn’t say no).

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed this so much. It was fun and heartwarming and joyous – and I don’t even care if it was technically a good film or not. I loved it.

It put me in mind of another film I love, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) which was just as lovely. Call me predictable, but I’m all about the Underdog going off to find themselves and happiness is a topic I often think about myself.

We constantly strive to find what makes us happy and sometimes, it’s right there laid out before our unseeing eyes. We’re often encouraged to believe that joy may only be achievable through material possession and property, through financial security and success. But I guess it depends how you measure your own success, right?

SP is a dream, and he’s good Pegg in this. Even at his bluest, there are shades of humour in the character. He’s just an optimist on a mission and I love him for that. I also love the little animated parts throughout this movie which lend a childlike element to the film. I guess the overall message is, it’s okay to search for wonder like a child, but don’t let the past stunt your emotional growth. Or something.

Rosamund Pike needs to just stop being so pretty and give me her haircut already. Though, is it me or is it hard to watch her in her ‘good’ roles now that she’s nailed Gone Girl (2014)’s Amazing Amy so well? Hmmm.

Anyway, I could go on and on but I’m not going to. I’m going to give you my (wildly biased) rating and be on my way.

My Rating: 

5/5 – I don’t even care! I want to watch it every day until the end of time, much like I used to do with Footloose (1984).

What did the divine Jillian think though? I wanna know, don’t you? Check here shortly!