Pros: eye candy, a couple of songs
Cons: confusing, boring, unappealing message, most songs bland, unsympathetic characters
The first thing I heard about Velvet Goldmine was that it features Ewan McGregor naked, which was enough of a reason to make me want to see it. So, when I received word that Dpjohansen had chosen me to review Velvet Goldmine for lynuss Lets See You Review This Write-Off, I was ecstatic. Since David and I both like Pulp, sexy boys, and androgyny, I figured that Velvet Goldmine would be a joyful sex-filled romp through the glam rock era. I wanted to like it, I really did
Unfortunately, Velvet Goldmine is overly long, self-indulgent, and simultaneously boring and confusing. For a film about '70s rock stars, it doesnt feature nearly enough sex and drugs. Some of the musical numbers are entertaining, and theres a fair bit of eye candy, but I quickly tired of the vain characters and convoluted plot. Writer/director Todd Haynes ( Far From Heaven) attempts to disguise the fact that Velvet Goldmine lacks a coherent plot by jumping backwards and forward in time and bombarding us with abstract scenes that may or may not be dream sequences.
Further confusing matters is the fact that we have a Scotsman (McGregor) playing an American, an Irishman (Jonathon Rhys-Myers, Bend it Like Beckham) playing an Englishman, and an Australian (Toni Collette) playing an American with a fake British accent. Christian Bales British accent sounded fake to me because I thought he was American, but hes actually Welsh. The ever-bizarre Eddie Izzard (born in Yemen) also makes an appearance as sleazy music manager Jerry Devine.
The plot, if you can call it that, is that journalist Arthur Stuart (Bale), an Englishman in New York, is assigned to write an investigative piece on the disappearance of glam rock king Brian Slade (Rhys-Myers). He tracks down Slades ex-wife Mandy (Collette), but we never really find out much information about the missing glam rocker. This is just as well because I didnt really care what happened to Slade, and no one else in the film seems to either. The film takes place in 1984, and everyone seems to have gotten over the theatrics that Slade pulled in the mid-70s, faking an elaborate death on stage. Haynes briefly explores Brian and Arthurs respective childhoods, but its all rather superficial. Both characters are dreadfully bland despite all the glitter, and Rhys-Myers spends the majority of the film staring off into space. Yes, he looks pretty, but youd get just as much out of this movie by watching it on mute.
Brian Slades character is so underdeveloped that Haynes uses several singers to portray his voice. Sometimes, Rhys-Myers performs his own songs, but, other times, Thom Yorke or Paul Kimble provide vocals. Ewan McGregor (looking frighteningly like Kurt Cobain) does an admirable job of singing himself, but his crooning is far overshadowed by his physical performance -- dousing himself in glitter and jumping around naked. That scene is, by far, the highlight of the movie. Rhys-Myers kissing McGregor is a distant second.
Velvet Goldmine has several too many musical sequences. While Rhys-Myers and McGregor are passable front men, they arent nearly as captivating as the artists on whom their characters were based -- David Bowie and Iggy Pop, respectively. Furthermore, most of the songs in the soundtrack were too slow paced, and I found them dull. A few of the tracks are entertaining, though. Highlights include Satellite of Love by Lou Reed and a cover of "20th Century Boy" by Placebo. For some reason, I didn't notice the Pulp song ("We Are the Boys") until I saw it listed in the credits!
A third level of flashback is that Haynes references Oscar Wilde and his theory of image being more important than reality. (A mans life is his image.) Young Oscar Wilde receives a green gem-like pin, apparently from a UFO, and it gets passed on to the various glam rock artists in the film. While I admire many of Wildes writings and messages, I find this one distasteful. Its fine to have a well-crafted persona, but one must have the substance to back it up. Like Holden Caulfield, I dont like phonies.
Both the glam rock characters that make it up and film itself grow tiresome because they are all style. Velvet Goldmine lacks the structure to be a full-fledged piece of cinema. Its merely Todd Haynes convoluted fantasy about the bisexual glam rock lifestyle. A documentary about David Bowie and his contemporaries would have been far more interesting.
Im fairly certain that I may have picked up on more Oscar Wilde references and details if I had watched the film again, but, at 124 minutes, once was enough.
Thank you, David for choosing me! I'm sorry that I didn't like your movie! Maybe if there had been more nudity... ;)