Feathers were unquestionably ruffled when it was announced last year by Duncan Jones that the upcoming biopic of his father David Bowie was being made without his or the rest of the family’s blessing, and thus would feature none of Bowie’s original music. But this limitation does somewhat work in the film’s favour; forcing director Gabriel Range to play a smarter game means that it stands out against the recent slew of music-biopics and emerges slightly better than expected.

Stardust follows a 24-year-old Bowie (Johnny Flynn) on his first tour of America. Much of it consists of the odd couple road trip undertaken by Bowie and his US promoter Ron Oberman (Marc Maron), playing awful venues and chasing a career-making Rolling Stone interview. While we like to think of Bowie as someone who did whatever he wanted in the name of artistry, Stardust shows a desperate and fame-hungry man on the brink of packing it all in. Flynn’s Bowie is more a suggestion than an impression (the voice occasionally veers into Mick Jagger), but there’s a glint of Bowie’s mad charm in his performance.

While the link between Bowie’s brother Tony’s (Derek Moran) struggle with mental-health issues and the therapeutic nature of theatricality is tied together rather clumsily as the inspiration for Ziggy, Bowie’s progression from artist to actor is a tale worth telling. Stardust at its core is a film about a man caught between artistry and celebrity, and even if it wasn’t about David Bowie, it would still make a decent story.

Though the idea of a Bowie film without his music may turn off most fans and may seem slightly pointless, Stardust succeeds somewhat in its simplicity, standing in stark contrast to its bombastic, big budget contemporaries. 

RATING: 3/5


INFORMATION

CAST: Johnny Flynn, Marc Maron, Jena Malone, Derek Moran

DIRECTOR: Gabriel Range

WRITERS: Christopher Bell, Gabriel Range

SYNOPSIS: Stardust will chronicle the young David Bowie’s first visit to the US in 1971 – a trip that inspired the invention of his iconic alter ego Ziggy Stardust.