Sex, Drugs and Shit Music.
On paper a film based on the life of David Bowie complete with an amalgamation of Lou Reed and Iggy Pop played by Ewan Mcgregor sounds fucking brilliant, unfortunately the reality is more Smurfs Go Pop than Dylan Goes Electric.
The problem with Velvet Goldmine is the Thin White Duke himself David Bowie refused to get on board with the project when he learned it was mostly based on his ex wife’s memoirs. So instead of Bowie we have Brian Slade – a kind of shit Bowie pastiche played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers as a forgettable X Factor contestant rather than a seminal artist who reinvented music at least twice. The other great tragedy is this also means no Bowie in the soundtrack either so instead there is some wishy washy general glam rock rubbish, loads of obvious choices we have all heard a million times, a fucking Gary Glitter song (!) and a couple of average if spirited covers from Placebo and Teenage Fanclub (20th Century Boy by T.Rex and Personality Crisis by New York Dolls respectively.)
Another bone of contention with Velvet Goldmine is when you have Christian Bale, Ewan McGregor and Jonathan Rhys fucking Meyers heading up your cast you don’t choose Meyers as your lead. Having said that McGregor is awful in this, speaking in a thousand accents and having no distinguishable character – on a side note he does look strikingly like Kurt Cobain.
Bale fares a little better and has most of the best scenes but you wouldn’t guess from this performance that he was only two years away from his astonishing turn in American Psycho. In support Toni Collette does her best with a one dimensional character and Eddie Izzard is probably the best thing about the entire flick as the sleazy manager as he at least seems to be having a bit of fun.
It is difficult to place a fictional musical artist in the real music world in film but we have seen it is possible in Almost Famous and Spinal Tap. Velvet Goldmine is just a fucking mess from start to finish. Rock ‘n’ Roll with the volume turned down.