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Velvet Goldmine

A movie directed by Todd Haynes

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Ewan McGregor Gets Naked in Velvet Goldmine (LSYRT Write-Off)

  • Apr 12, 2005
  • by
Pros: eye candy, a couple of songs

Cons: confusing, boring, unappealing message, most songs bland, unsympathetic characters

The Bottom Line: Ewan McGregor's bottom line is lovely, but the rest of the movie is pretty lame.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie''s plot.

The first thing I heard about Velvet Goldmine was that it features Ewan McGregor naked, which was enough of a reason to make me want to see it. So, when I received word that Dpjohansen had chosen me to review Velvet Goldmine for lynus’s Let’s See You Review This Write-Off, I was ecstatic. Since David and I both like Pulp, sexy boys, and androgyny, I figured that Velvet Goldmine would be a joyful sex-filled romp through the glam rock era. I wanted to like it, I really did…

Unfortunately, Velvet Goldmine is overly long, self-indulgent, and simultaneously boring and confusing. For a film about '70s rock stars, it doesn’t feature nearly enough sex and drugs. Some of the musical numbers are entertaining, and there’s a fair bit of eye candy, but I quickly tired of the vain characters and convoluted plot. Writer/director Todd Haynes ( Far From Heaven) attempts to disguise the fact that Velvet Goldmine lacks a coherent plot by jumping backwards and forward in time and bombarding us with abstract scenes that may or may not be dream sequences.

Further confusing matters is the fact that we have a Scotsman (McGregor) playing an American, an Irishman (Jonathon Rhys-Myers, Bend it Like Beckham) playing an Englishman, and an Australian (Toni Collette) playing an American with a fake British accent. Christian Bale’s British accent sounded fake to me because I thought he was American, but he’s actually Welsh. The ever-bizarre Eddie Izzard (born in Yemen) also makes an appearance as sleazy music manager Jerry Devine.

The plot, if you can call it that, is that journalist Arthur Stuart (Bale), an Englishman in New York, is assigned to write an investigative piece on the disappearance of glam rock king Brian Slade (Rhys-Myers). He tracks down Slade’s ex-wife Mandy (Collette), but we never really find out much information about the missing glam rocker. This is just as well because I didn’t really care what happened to Slade, and no one else in the film seems to either. The film takes place in 1984, and everyone seems to have gotten over the theatrics that Slade pulled in the mid-70s, faking an elaborate death on stage. Haynes briefly explores Brian and Arthur’s respective childhoods, but it’s all rather superficial. Both characters are dreadfully bland despite all the glitter, and Rhys-Myers spends the majority of the film staring off into space. Yes, he looks pretty, but you’d get just as much out of this movie by watching it on mute.

Brian Slade’s character is so underdeveloped that Haynes uses several singers to portray his voice. Sometimes, Rhys-Myers performs his own songs, but, other times, Thom Yorke or Paul Kimble provide vocals. Ewan McGregor (looking frighteningly like Kurt Cobain) does an admirable job of singing himself, but his crooning is far overshadowed by his physical performance -- dousing himself in glitter and jumping around naked. That scene is, by far, the highlight of the movie. Rhys-Myers kissing McGregor is a distant second.

Velvet Goldmine has several too many musical sequences. While Rhys-Myers and McGregor are passable front men, they aren’t nearly as captivating as the artists on whom their characters were based -- David Bowie and Iggy Pop, respectively. Furthermore, most of the songs in the soundtrack were too slow paced, and I found them dull. A few of the tracks are entertaining, though. Highlights include “Satellite of Love” by Lou Reed and a cover of "20th Century Boy" by Placebo. For some reason, I didn't notice the Pulp song ("We Are the Boys") until I saw it listed in the credits!

A third level of flashback is that Haynes references Oscar Wilde and his theory of image being more important than reality. (“A man’s life is his image.”) Young Oscar Wilde receives a green gem-like pin, apparently from a UFO, and it gets passed on to the various glam rock artists in the film. While I admire many of Wilde’s writings and messages, I find this one distasteful. It’s fine to have a well-crafted persona, but one must have the substance to back it up. Like Holden Caulfield, I don’t like phonies.

Both the glam rock characters that make it up and film itself grow tiresome because they are all style. Velvet Goldmine lacks the structure to be a full-fledged piece of cinema. It’s merely Todd Haynes’ convoluted fantasy about the bisexual glam rock lifestyle. A documentary about David Bowie and his contemporaries would have been far more interesting.

I’m fairly certain that I may have picked up on more Oscar Wilde references and details if I had watched the film again, but, at 124 minutes, once was enough.

Thank you, David for choosing me! I'm sorry that I didn't like your movie! Maybe if there had been more nudity... ;)


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: None of the Above
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age

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More Velvet Goldmine (1998 movie) reviews
Quick Tip by . October 21, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
I tried multiple times to review it but never could find a way in. It is a early glam-rock version of Citizen Kane. The structure is that strong. And the 4 principles are fantastic. I can't rate it higher because when it gets draggy it gets reeeeeeealll draggy.
review by . June 05, 2010
Now I know what you all are thinking..... what is this?? Well I am going to add a review for it later this week so be looking for it, but I love this movie. It is all about Glam Rock over in England. It is just a staple for me in my movie rotation!......    I was first introduced to this movie because of my unnatural love of Ewan McGregor and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. But I was pleasantly shocked a year or so later when I sat down to watch Batman Begins to recognize Christian Bale's …
review by . December 26, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Acting, lighting, story, music      Cons: Some scenes are odd and hard to determine if 'true' or part of the pretention.      The Bottom Line: The performances by the principles alone is enough, but the general story is also compelling.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie''s plot.      When pretention becomes all the rage what does the new wave have to turn to—and …
review by . May 25, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
"Velvet Goldmine"    Glitter and Glam    Amos Lassen and Cinema Pride    "Velvet Goldmine" is impressive in the way it includes Oscar Wilde, his philosophies about art and his fascination with music. Even though Wilde is not a character in the film his presence is felt throughout. He is referenced throughout.   Curt is both a composite of Iggy Pop and Wilde--he is an artist as he creates music and Brian Slade is Dorian Gray. He …
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About this movie


Loosely based on the experiences and personalities of David Bowie and Iggy Pop, VELVET GOLDMINE is a wild, glitter-laced trip through the 1970s era of Glam rock. Fictional characters Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) and Curt Wild (Ewan McGregor) are personifications of Glam rock's ideals, with the mysterious and androgynous Slade balanced by the intense, raucous Wild. When Slade disappears, the era itself seems to melt away, swallowed up by the slick 1980s. But Slade's story, and the story of Glam rock, is retold when journalist Arthur Stuart (Christian Bale) is assigned to discover what really happened to Slade. Through his own memories of this time, Arthur faces his childhood fears and fantasies. With a nod to Oscar Wilde, a CITIZEN KANE-like structure, and an overall sumptuous atmosphere, VELVET GOLDMINE is director Todd Haynes's unique look at homosexuality, indulgence, and, most importantly, rock & roll.
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Director: Todd Haynes
Genre: Drama
Release Date: November 6, 1998
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: James Lyons, Todd Haynes
DVD Release Date: May 18, 1999
Runtime: 2hrs 3min
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