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"Stoned": The final days of a Rolling Stone
Special to The Seattle Times
Anyone who has seen Brian Jones stoned to the gills in the 1968 concert film "The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus" witnessed a startling indicator of what the last, self-destructive months of his life were probably like.
Jones — the maverick co-founder and defining spirit of the early Stones — is in such a stupor in "Circus" that his senseless expression is almost laughable. Except it's not: Jones' problems with drugs and alcohol got him kicked out of the band in June 1969. A month later, he drowned in a swimming pool at Cotchford Farm, his estate.
Jones' final days are the subject of "Stoned," the uneven directorial debut of Stephen Woolley, Neil Jordan's longtime producer ("Breakfast On Pluto," "Mona Lisa").
"Stoned" brushes aside a coroner's finding that Jones died accidentally. Instead, it takes at face value an alleged deathbed statement by Frank Thorogood, a builder on Cotchford Farm, that there was more to Jones' death.
"Stoned" works best as a darkly emblematic drama about the grinding, dispiriting demise of the 1960s dream of counterculture benevolence and limitless experimentation.
Woolley envisions Jones (Leo Gregory) as sweet and helpless, difficult and insensitive. Alienated from bandmates Keith Richards (Ben Whishaw), Mick Jagger (Luke de Woolfson), Bill Wyman (Josef Altin) and Charlie Watts (James D. White), Jones hires the dour, middle-class Thorogood (Paddy Considine) to work on his property.
He also encourages Thorogood to sample his indulgent, hedonistic world — just a little, enough to make a working man despise himself, his class limitations, his mates, his home and, yes, Jones, too.
What's missing in this warts-and-all portrait of Jones is the "and-all" part. Woolley fails to convey what mattered about Jones artistically, what he contributed to music, why we should feel more than pity.
On the other hand, "Stoned" shows us how much fun it can be for a filmmaker to contemplate history. A flashback peek at an early club appearance by the Stones; the sight of Richards stealing away with Jones' lover, Anita Pallenberg (Monet Mazur) — these are a pleasure. Not because they're re-creations of the past but rather a reflection of how the past lives inside one storyteller.
Tom Keogh: email@example.com
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company