15 January 2015 | Red-Barracuda
Not the most dramatic story but well enough told
Boy George can certainly be described as an 80's icon. I distinctly remember as a youngster first seeing his band Culture Club perform 'Do You Really Want to Hurt Me' on some kids TV show some time in the early 80's and then seeing him interviewed immediately afterwards and being utterly amazed he was not a she. I seem to recall fellow school-mates being somewhat flabbergasted about this the following day too. These were less enlightened times as far as homosexuality was concerned, so I guess Boy George was even more of a cultural happening taking that into account. Despite his image, part of the reason Culture Club became so massively popular was that George himself was never promoted as threatening sexually, while the band's music was very contemporary new wave pop with little edge. But like most things that connect so fully with mainstream culture, the fame and success only lasted a fairly short while.
This TV biopic is unusual in that it hardly focuses on the Culture Club years at all. Instead, it covers George's pre-fame and post-peak tabloid celebrity years. In doing this, it sort of misses out the most dramatic section of the story and looks at what led George there and how it affected him negatively afterwards. This approach means that you have to accept what the film is not, although it definitely makes the story more small-scale and lower key. The early years are typified by the fashion scene that revolved around the Blitz Club which was populated by the New Romantics; while the later scenes happen in the midst of George being hounded by the press over his reported heroin addiction. The film flashes forward and back to these two periods to tell the story. And in some respects it's quite a limited story in all honesty. The early years were typified, after all, by George not really doing a lot and gaining minor celebrity for merely wearing the right clothes. One of the more notable events happens when he briefly hooks up with Malcolm McLaren – very well played by Mark Gatiss – and is photographed with his then pop pets Bow Wow Wow but little came of this, so it's just a colourful detail.
Mainly the film works as a time capsule movie, where we are transported back to the early 80's. Several characters from the New Romantic scene appear, such as Steve Strange, Marilyn and Kirk Brandon; the latter of which had a sexual affair with the singer. The costuming and soundtrack have been chosen well and despite the low budget, it's convincingly of its time. The main acting duties are covered by newcomer Douglas Booth, who is decidedly more androgynous than the real Boy George. He puts in a pretty good performance, especially when you consider he was only 17 years old at the time. On the whole, this is a film that should appeal to those who like biopics about popular music figures. It might not be the most dramatic story but it is well told for what it is.