If would be tough to totally botch a Brian Jones bio-pic. With the drugs, music, fashion and free-love swilling girls at your disposal, there’s plenty of eye candy if nothing else. Thankfully for Stephen Wooley’s Stoned, there is something else — just not quite enough of it. What’s largely a traditional “where did it all go wrong” kind of story, replete with longing, sorrowful wine-eyed gazes and flashbacks, has an unexpected element.
Acknowledged as the founding member of the Stones — and in true pop revisionist style, the talented, brilliant, dangerous one — by the time the film opens in 1969, Jones has withdrawn to his sprawling estate where he subsists on Swedish models, booze and self-loathing. By this time he had ceased to be a functioning member of the group and had become a headache to both members and management. Frank, a builder renovating his mansion, enters the picture. A better dramatic foil for Jones’ dangling spirit could not have been invented and this relationship creates the film’s dramatic tension. Frank is of a completely different generation. He is old England — drab, gray, working-class, postwar-rations England. With a dowdy unfuckable wife and macho code of honor, he’s out of his depth when he sees runty little Brian Jones and his golden-skinned Swedish models and frilly bathrobes. That Jones flaunts his lifestyle before him like a cape before a bull sets the stage for a Shakespearian finale.
The big problem is with the 1960s backstory. Wooley’s shorthand for Jones’ rise and calamitous fall hits every generational cliché, right down to employing ‘White Rabbit’ as the soundtrack to a LSD trip with the “love of his life” Anita Pallenberg. As a result, the character who meets his end at the bottom of his swimming pool feels more like a cultural cliché than a man.
Opens March 24 at Landmark Sunshine