Longtime British producer Stephen Woolley -- most notably of such Neil Jordan films as "The Crying Game" and "Interview With the Vampire" -- makes his directing debut with the lethargic drama "Stoned." An account of the final months of founding Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones, who drowned in 1969, the film is a hodgepodge of bohemian decadence, finely observed period detail and an overdose of flashbacks.
The film, based on a trio of nonfiction books about Jones and scripted by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, is structured around the events leading up to the musician's death. Leo Gregory plays Jones, and Paddy Considine is Frank Thorogood, a building contractor who stays with Jones during the fateful period.
Jones has ceased to be useful to the Stones due to his high-profile drug arrests and inability to tour or show up at the studio to record, and he wiles away his days at his home in East Sussex, with Thorogood gradually drawn into his bacchanal. Through abundant flashbacks and montages we witness Jones losing actress-model Anita Pallenberg (Monet Mazur) to Keith Richards (Ben Whishaw), contributing the soundtrack to Volker Schlondorff's film "Degree of Murder" and burying himself in a haze of drugs and alcohol, but we never really get a sense of him as a character.
More important, the film fails to establish Jones' significance to the band or why his death should be seen as anything other than just another rock 'n' roll casualty. Woolley and the screenwriters take an episodic approach in revealing the purported cause of Jones' death, and the expressionistic depiction strips the film of any narrative drive. Fans of the band will likely be disappointed (its music is represented by a handful of covers), and younger audiences will wonder what the fuss is about.
MPAA rating: Unrated
An Intandem and Screen Media Films release. Producer-director Stephen Woolley. Producer Finola Dwyer. Screenplay by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, based on "Paint It Black: The Murder of Brian Jones" by Geoffrey Giuliano, "Who Killed Christopher Robin?" by Terry Rawlings and "The Murder of Brian Jones" by Anna Wohlin. Director of photography John Mathieson. Editor Sam Sneade. Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes.
Exclusively at the Landmark Nuart, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., West L.A. (310) 281-8223.