18 May 2003 | Pedro_H
Convincing portrait of the wasted and the talentless.
Recent social history is very hard to capture through drama and Alex Cox must be grateful to have such a good plot device (a far from standard love story) to carry us through this difficult and much misunderstood period of history.
Punk rock was born to be a cult. Through all the headlines and publicity the central music barely scrapped the US charts: The Sex Pistols one studio album only just crept in to the American top 100 and they were viewed more as a novelty act than the next big thing. Only when the whole thing was tamed and popified did the thing take off, by then renamed "new wave" to differentiate between the new and old school.
(By this time the Pistols had long since self-destructed.)
In the beginning, the Sex Pistols were more a private party than a band, indeed they often played them instead of more normal gigs. The original punks were anti fashion and anti everything, attracting misfits of all kinds and colours; although art and fashion students made up the majority. This really was an open house with prostitutes, homosexuals and exhibtionists being equally welcome.
(This is accurately depicted in the movie.)
Sid and Nancy were from this hanging-on group and although joining the group as bassist and groupie respectively (Nancy tried to get it on with most of the band) they were never more than window dressing. The Pistol sound was Lydon/Rotten's voice and Steve Jones's power chords. Sid never even played on the records.
It is notable that many icons manage to have an icon haircut (Elvis, Rolling Stones, Beatles all set hair fashions) and amazingly SV even managed one himself with his perfect spikes. His look, his life and his early death made him a cult, but he didn't leave a legacy behind other than a series of half-hearted drunken rants.
Hard to see how Oldman could do more to be Vicious other than lose a few years. SV died at 21 and Oldman is clearly older (28 at the time of filming), but that is my only quibble. Chloe Webb (as Nancy) is also good, but annoying, like a dog that won't shut up barking and chewing the furniture, until you just accept it. A life consisting of drugs, sex and TV - often consumed all at the same time.
Alex Cox's direction (possibly because he knew the punk movement first hand rather than through the papers) is first rate - like Quentin Tarantino lite - but he is just as much a flash-in-the-pan as Sid and Nancy himself. He can't make a mainstream movie, because all he is interested in is man's ugly underbelly and without major acting talent these things look self-indulgent and even amateurish.
However this is a moral look at drug taking - not the "fun before it gets serious" moral - the "its never a good idea full stop" one. Sid is a child, Nancy is barely any more than a child, but more street-wise. Too lazy for work she used oral sex like most people use a credit card.
I like this film because it has something to say about undeserved fame, what you do (or the few choices you have) after your fifteen minutes is up and how empty headed people with no agenda get treated in this big bad world. Whether you want to spend time learning all this is up to you, but it is very well done if you do.