‘Stardust’ Review: A Week With David Bowie, Unaccompanied by His Music
This motion picture, in which an unusually coiffed performer, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, sings some Jacques Brel songs, purports to be a story about David Bowie.
It’s called “Stardust,” and the director, Gabriel Range, who wrote the movie with Christopher Bell, opted to press on, even after he was denied permission to use Bowie’s songs. They might not have helped much, however.
The movie expands on an interesting anecdote from Bowie’s career: his first trip to the United States in the early ’70s, a radio and print publicity jaunt with a publicist, whose family briefly entertained Bowie as a houseguest.
Here, the publicist, Ron Oberman, played by Marc Maron, is the only Yankee believer in Bowie’s otherworldly talent. He drops, clumsily, several aperçus which, in this movie’s world, prove key to Bowie’s future superstar personae. (Inspirational dialogue: “A rock star or somebody impersonating a rock star, what’s the difference?”)
Bowie is portrayed by Johnny Flynn, a real-life musician who appears capable. But he resembles Bowie — in James Thurber’s phrase — about as much as the MGM lion resembles Calvin Coolidge.
The most bearable scenes of this road-trip-plus-flashbacks resemble “The End of the Tour” refracted through an episode of the podcast “WTF With Marc Maron.” The portrayal of Bowie is trying to the viewer. His character is either a stumbling, fumbling, fawn-eyed space cadet or an articulate, erudite conversationalist, depending on Range’s whim.
In a scene depicting a marital spat, his wife, Angie Bowie, (Jena Malone) yells, “We were supposed to be king and queen!” (anticipating “Heroes,” a song that was years away). You can’t make this stuff up.
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 49 minutes. In theaters and available to rent or buy on Google Play, Vudu and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators. Please consult the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies inside theaters.