"Lackluster Biography of Glam Rocker David Bowie"
What You Need To Know:
STARDUST is a slow-moving, lackluster, humorless musical biography. The movie’s flashbacks don’t help. They slow things down and seem too haphazardly inserted into the story. The Bowie family denied the filmmakers the use of any of David’s songs. This makes the purpose behind this biopic pretty senseless and unappealing. STARDUST also contains several scenes of drug use, many “f” words, several strong profanities, some lewd content, and strong homosexual references.
STARDUST (2020) is a drama about the early career struggles of rock star David Bowie, leading up to 1972 when he invented the bisexual stage persona of Ziggy Stardust to perform his songs, which took the rock world by storm. STARDUST is a slow-moving, lackluster, humorless musical biography about an artist struggling to make it big in the music industry and battling his own personal demons to discover his identity. The Bowie family denied the filmmakers the use of any of David’s songs, which makes the purpose of this biopic pretty senseless and unappealing.
Most of the movie deals with Bowie’s business and personal relationship with Rob Oberman, an American rock promoter from Mercury Records, Bowie’s label at the time. Ron accompanies Bowie on his 1971 tour of America to promote his third album, THE MAN WHO SAVED THE WORLD. Unfortunately, Bowie’s people in England didn’t get Bowie the right work visa. So, Bowie can’t perform in any concert halls, but can only perform in small venues like small clubs. One time, Ron even gets Bowie a gig at a small convention for vacuum salesmen.
Because of this situation, Ron concentrates on getting Bowie radio and print interviews. He’s especially working on getting Bowie an interview with Rolling Stone, the premier rock music magazine in America. However, Bowie keeps messing up the interviews, or refusing to do them if they’re too small. A big part of the problem is that the David Bowie depicted in this movie really doesn’t know who he is. He also doesn’t know what he wants to accomplish as a musical artist. Furthermore, since he really doesn’t know these things, he’s terrible at expressing his ideas to the people doing the interviewing.
Making matters worse, some flashbacks in the movie reveal that David’s half-brother, Terry, and two of his aunts had a history of mental illness. Terry’s illness affects David deeply in several scenes (sadly, Terry committed suicide in 1986). As a result of his half-brother’s illness, David questions his own mental stability. Especially since he thinks that trying to be a rock star is an inherently artificial and psychologically bizarre thing to be.
Everything comes to a head when the interview with the Rolling Stone writer doesn’t go so well. David returns to England with a renewed, determined spirit to do something different, to make his music stand out from the crowd. However, he still doesn’t quite yet know what that will be.
STARDUST is a slow-moving, lackluster, humorless musical biography. The flashbacks don’t help. They slow things down and seem haphazardly inserted into the story. Also, David Bowie’s character here (played by Johnny Flynn, a young British actor who’s done a lot of British TV) often comes across as rather shallow, unlikeable, inarticulate, and even rude. He also sometimes is deliberately difficult. In fact, since the Bowie family denied the filmmakers any use of Bowie’s own songs, the songs chosen for the movie are a couple folk rock covers, one of which sounds like a song by the rock group Jethro Tull, and a tuneless rock anthem that barely sounds like David Bowie. The lack of any of David Bowie’s dynamic music in STARDUST makes the purpose of this biopic pretty senseless and unappealing. If you can’t use any of David Bowie’s early songs, what’s the point? How is the moviegoer, especially someone not familiar with Bowie’s work, supposed to relate to, much less judge, the movie’s portrayal of this highly influential rock star?
Also, STARDUST skips right over the album that David Bowie did after THE MAN WHO SAVED THE WORLD and before the first Ziggy Stardust album. Titled HUNKY DORY, this album didn’t do well in the charts until after Bowie released the first Ziggy Stardust record, THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS. However, once Bowie became famous as Ziggy Stardust, the general public started to realize what a good album HUNKY DORY really was. For that album, Bowie wrote two of his biggest, most iconic hits, “Changes” and “Life on Mars?”
STARDUST is not only burdened by awkward, lackluster storytelling. It also suffers from lackluster messaging. Despite a couple dream sequences, the movie is told in a matter-of-fact, realistic style. However, it takes no strong position one way or another regarding David Bowie’s career struggles or personal struggles. Bowie finally decides what kind of artist he wants to be, but he also starts indulging a cocaine habit, a problem that became a serious issue for him in the latter part of the 1970s (Bowie reportedly finally kicked his drug habit by 1979 after it caused some serious mental problems).
In addition to several scenes of drug use, STARDUST (2020) contains many “f” words, several strong profanities, some lewd content, and homosexual references. David Bowie often comes across as rude, confused, unlikeable, and deliberately difficult. Most moviegoers won’t enjoy STARDUST. Also, David Bowie fans probably will be upset by the movie’s lackluster approach to their idol and the lack of any Bowie songs from his first five albums. It should be noted that David Bowie’s music sometimes contains references to Buddhism, the occult and sexual immorality as well as some Christian allusions.