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MOVIES: Stardust - Review



When a film about an artist doesn’t include the artist’s songs in the film itself, chances are you know it’s going to be bad. Whilst there are a few exceptions to the rule on either side, Gabriel Range’s Stardust, a film about David Bowie’s American tour to promote his third album, The Man Who Sold The World, is very much not one of them – made no less so, without the approval of the Bowie estate – offering quite simply, a bland caricature of one of the most iconic artists in music history. If One Night in Miami… was the first great film of 2021 to be released in the UK, then make no mistake about it, Stardust, likewise released on Curzon Home Cinema and currently available to stream, is quite simply, the first bad film to be released in 2021 in the UK. It’s just a colossal misfire at every single turn.

Released back in 2007, Jake Kasdan’s Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story parodied the music biopic to precision with its white-knuckle criticism of the tried and tested biopic structure. However, biopic films, especially musical biopic films - have seemingly used that film as an instruction as to what to focus on since rather than a wakeup call to break away from the formula – Bryan Singer’s appallingly bad Bohemian Rhapsody failed to do anything different with the structure, and Range’s Stardust is no different, it’s the same rise and fall storyline that you’ve seen told time and time again repeated here, framed around potentially interesting ideas like exploring Bowie’s identity and who he is as a person, with each new concept quickly wasted and cast aside in favour of bland visuals that offer little or no imagination set against tropes that other films wouldn't even look once at. Furthermore, everything is wrapped up in an all-too neat bow, as it tries its hardest to please, opting for a straightforwardly one-dimensional portrayal of an icon who refused to be boxed in.

Therefore it is incredibly telling that Stadurst lacks any kind of heart or soul, and it feels like even actor Johnny Flynn knows this, with his performance being heavily flawed and all over the place – rarely capturing the spirit of David Bowie at all and feeling horribly miscast and awkward, which is a shame as Flynn in particular is usually found in better films - like last year's remarkably fun period piece Emma, and he's also a talented musician in his own right, meaning that the casting was initially something that I was on board for at first only to be let down once I witnessed it in action. Jena Malone, as Angie Bowie, gets a small role which proves she is infinitely better than the material she is given as this is where flashes of the film's spark threatens to come to life, but maybe, an approach like Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There, which cast multiple actors in the same role as Bob Dylan, would have worked better here. At least it would have attempted to give the film some life – as Stardust unfortunately, has nothing of the sort – it’s a snooze fest that makes even its short 109-minute-long runtime look like an age in comparison. Those looking for real, factual details on Bowie's life will only find themselves further dissapointed, as whilst I am not against biopics taking liberty with real person's life, the film veers so wildly off course from his trajectory that its pre-credits warning of all of what you are about to see being fiction almost feels like an understatement: change the names of the people involved and you could easily have an original rockstar creation without the need to be reliant on creating an imagery of songs that you don't have the rights to anyway.

You’re better of watching Nicolas Roeg’s terrific The Man Who Fell To Earth featuring Bowie himself to recapture the magic of the artist at his peak. I’d even go so far to say as if there is a weaker film than Stardust released in the rest of this year, it’ll take quite an accomplishment.

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