Stoned (2005) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

This story is based upon a working hypothesis about the death of Brian Jones, the founder of the Rolling Stones, who died in his own swimming pool about a month after having been sacked from the group. The official account of his death has always been treated with suspicion, not just because of the natural 60s attitude of disrespect toward authority, or the natural tendency to assume cover-ups and seek conspiracies when celebrity deaths are involved, but because some things just didn't make a lot of sense. Jones drowned in an relatively small, warm swimming pool when he had very little in the way of drugs or alcohol in his system, and despite the fact that he was a championship-caliber swimmer. The coroner ruled it a "death by misadventure," whatever that means. I think it means, "He's a rock star and he destroyed himself. That's what they do, isn't it?"

The writers and director acquired the rights to four books about the end of Jones's life, including the account of his girlfriend, Anna Wohlin, who was at the estate the night he drowned, and helped fish him from the pool. They went one step farther. Another woman was present at the estate that night, a nurse who had promptly disappeared from the public eye for forty years until these filmmakers hired a private detective to track her down and give her side of the story, which had never been told since the perfunctory contemporaneous police investigation.  Only when the authors felt that they had a story which conformed to all the reports in all their sources, and reflected the accounts of all the eyewitnesses, did they assemble this script. You have to give them credit for a story well researched. Is it true? I don't believe we will ever know for sure, but it is plausible.

The director also assembled a cast which evoked the cast of real characters, and employed a cinematographer who went to a great deal of time and trouble to capture the feel of the 60s with period equipment and film stock. In fact, he used many different lenses and film stocks to create different moods in different contexts, and to help the audience navigate through the labyrinth of times and places which form the back-story.

So, the director, writer and cinematographer put a lot of careful effort into a film about my favorite rock group. Why the hell didn't I actually enjoy the film? A few reasons:

1. The film is over-produced. Too many different cinematographic tricks, too much arty editing, flashbacks within flashbacks - like the work of a film school senior trying to demonstrate the breadth of his mastery, but at the expense of coherence, entertainment, and narrative.

2. Although the film does finally offer some interesting insight on the mystery of Brian's death, it takes 84 minutes before it even lets on that there IS a mystery. Given the framing structure of the film, I was led to believe that the flashback story was going to explain the psychological deterioration of the principal that led him to an excessive lifestyle, hence deathstyle. You know, your basic "drugs suck" movie. Turns out it has a completely different story to tell, but takes a very long time to get to it. Too long, in my opinion, and too little energy is expended on the way.

3. This point is the deal-breaker. It's a film about the Rolling Stones, but the filmmakers couldn't acquire the rights to the Stones major hits of the period. As a result, the director had to resort to a few atmospheric scenes of the boys covering old blues standards (as they actually did in the inchoate stages of the band's development), plus one cover version of "Time Is On My Side," and some other period songs. Saddest of all, the other songs were not always appropriate. For example, "White Rabbit" is the soundtrack for a drug-taking scene in 1965. Oops! Not only has that song turned into a dead horse in general, best avoided completely because it's an instant 60s cliché, but it is a 1967 dead horse, the music of a substantially different musical era, one which had not begun in 1965.

Hollywood Reporter hit it right on the head in their review - the film has plenty of sex and drugs, but no rock 'n roll. (And, for that matter, too much of the sex is on grainy retro film stock, at least for my taste.) That left me with the same feeling about this film that I had about that Sylvia Plath biopic with Gwyneth Paltrow. Both films had some good production values and performances, but you shouldn't make a Sylvia Plath film without permission to use her poems, and you shouldn't make a Rolling Stones film with Jefferson Airplane music. That's just wrong.

NOTE on the DVD: Although I thought the movie to be so-so at best, I found the Region 2 DVD excellent. Since the story is a controversial take on a true story, you would hope that the film's creators would discuss that, and that's just what they do. There is a full-length commentary, an excellent "making-of", and many, many deleted scenes.


Region 2 DVD INFO

  • The transfer is anamorphically enhanced
  • Many deleted scenes
  • Full-length commentary
  • "Making-of" featurette


  • Ben Whishaw - penis

  • Leo Gregory - penis and bum

  • Monet Mazur - breasts several times. Bum and crotch beneath a transparent nightie.

  • Tuva Novotny - breasts

  • Unidentified males and females - full frontal nudity


The casting of the famous people in this film was quite reasonable, but the casting of the mysterious Frank Thorogood, the contractor who lived above Brian's garage, was not appropriate. The actor, Paddy Considine, is a reasonably handsome man who was 30 when this film was made. (He's the guy who played the dad in In America.) The real Thorogood was a grotesquely ugly 44 year old man. (Pictured to the right.) If that role had been cast with an appropriate actor - say Timothy Spall with a bald head, one eye, and a pencil-thin moustache - the relationship between Brian Jones and Thorogood would have been much easier to understand. Imagine the guy to the right palling around with hunky superstar, and you can imagine what the chemistry should have been, and how humiliating some of Jones's mind games must have been for the poor schlub.

The Critics Vote ...

  • British consensus out of four: two stars. Mail 2/10, Telegraph 3/10, Independent 4/10, Guardian 6/10, Times 6/10, Express 6/10, Mirror 6/10, BBC 4/5.

The People Vote ...

  • Box Office Mojo. At its zenith, it appeared on six screens in the USA. It grossed $35,000
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.


Based on this description, this film is a C-. It is a watchable movie, but it's one of those where you are constantly haunted by disappointment, because it should have been great. Make it more viewer-friendly, add the Stones' music, and this could have been a contenda.

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