Flamboyant entertainer Ian Dury, backed by the Blockheads, takes to the stage, explaining to his audience how, as a child, he contracted polio from a swimming pool and attended a special needs school where he was bullied, particularly by orderly Hargreaves, a fact which shaped his tough and frequently iconoclastic approach to life, culminating in his controversial contribution to the Year of the Disabled. From his early days with Kilburn and the High Roads, playing seedy pubs with no dressing rooms Ian moves onto chart success with the Blockheads, collaborating with musician Chaz Jankel. His private life is complicated as, separated from the tolerant Betty with whom he remains friends but refuses to divorce for many years, he lives with the much younger Denise along with his adored son Baxter, who will himself become a performer. Ian dies in 2000, having packed an enormous amount of living into a comparatively short life. Written by
don @ minifie-1
Ian Dury's span of popular success in the UK only lasted a few years and I can't say I was over-familiar with either his work (bar the early hit singles and albums) but this film belied my fear that perhaps there wasn't much of a story to tell. In fact, it probably over-compensates by adopting a non-linear narrative approach as well as some arty-farty jump-cuts and tricksy animation sequences to inject a knockabout feel to proceedings.
This is again a somewhat contrived and forced contrast to the bathetic scenes of Dury's growing up as a young boy, abandoned by his father, bullied at school by his class-mates and one particular teacher, his adult predilection for treating his womenfolk very badly indeed and finally the difficult relationship with his own son Baxter, who has since become a recognised musician in his own right.
I felt the scenes with the two women in his life, his wife and mistress were Denise a bit overwrought and overwritten, their dialogue too forced and you're always anticipating an inspired pearl of wit or wisdom from Dury when real life just doesn't work that way, even with clever bastard word-smiths like him. It's like expecting Shakespeare to curse and moan in rhyming couplets if he was having an argument - my point is we know that Ian Dury had a way with words but not every minute of the day.
All that said, the film rattled along and certainly did the man's musical legacy proud. I thought a bit more could have been done to play up the importance of Chaz Jankel and his nifty tune-spinning - certainly Dury was a lot less successful when writing to someone else's melodies. Andy Serkus is great in the Dury role, he looks and talks the part very well, acts his disability imperceptibly and keeps up the characterisation right into the songs, of which many are aired.
For some reason the film misses out about the last 15 years of his life and we don't even get to know how he died, although the director may claim that the film was a celebration of his life and won't be the last bio-pic to fast forward past the more mundane parts of an artist's life. For that reason, the first half of the film as he struggles for success is better than the inevitable rock-star excess in the second half, where Dury's persona becomes a bit blurred.
All told though, I quite enjoyed it but regret somewhat that the director felt the need to jazz up his subject's life in a way that I'm not sure a no-bullshit guy like Dury would altogether appreciate.
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