The devil and Mr. Jones

  • by David Lamble
  • Monday March 20, 2006
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Why would anyone make a movie about a Rolling Stone, dead or alive, the viewing of which threatens a descent into terminal narcolepsy? Stoned, the directorial debut of long-time Neil Jordan producer Stephen Woolley, purports to be the inside skinny on the seamy death of Stones guitarist Brian Jones. Jones, founding member and fair-haired boy during the band's explosive first six years, was found dead on July 3, 1969, at the bottom of his pool, on the estate built by Winnie the Pooh creator A.A. Milne.

The coroner ruled Jones' demise a drug-related accident, although rumors of foul play have hung over the affair for decades, and now the filmmakers argue that the handyman did it. Stoned offers scant evidence for why anybody in the army of freeloaders at this twisted House at Pooh Corner would go to the trouble of killing Jones — though, after 20 minutes of unmotivated flashbacks and listless make-out scenes with Twiggy look-alikes, even I was wishing him dead.

Actor Leo Gregory is a very humpy Jones — a moment of full-frontal nudity is a convincing testimony to his commitment to the role — but there's nary a hint that he can carry a tune, least of all be a prodigy on several instruments. There's zero chemistry between Gregory and his would-be nemesis Paddy Considine as the hapless one-eyed contractor Frank Thorogood — the real Thorogood allegedly made a death-bed confession — and the device of flipping between drug/sex binges from London to Marrakech robs the Jones/Thorogood relationship of the necessary bile and tension.

Jones could be a brutish bastard, at times delusional and paranoid. Gregory manages only a wimpy, half-hearted stab at being a true rock asshole. Ironically, the real Jones personality meltdown was nailed by Mick Jagger, when he played a mincing, gender-bending, burned-out rock recluse who seduces a gangster (James Fox) into his house and meets an unseemly if thoroughly entertaining demise in Donald Cammell/Nicolas Roeg's riveting Performance — featuring the best Jagger on film, the hip-swaying, demonic "Message to Turner."

The makers of Stoned needed Mick's help, certainly the rights to cuts from the band's discography, avoiding a disappointing soundtrack featuring The Counterfeit Stones. Skip this one, and rent Performance, or the kick-ass funny parody of four hapless white boys trying to score Kiss tickets in 1978 Detroit, Detroit Rock City, featuring a strip tease by Eddie Furlong and a straight boy seduced in a confession booth.

Opens Friday.