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A downward spiral for two
on May 16, 2010
Sex, drugs, rock'n'roll. "Sid and Nancy" are crammed to the brim with those things, as well as a massive helping of death. This biopic follows the love affair between Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen, set in the grimy, bloody, filthy punk subculture of the era -- and Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb are absolutely amazing.
Vicious (Oldman) was part of rising punk band the Sex Pistols when he met Spungen (Webb), an American groupie whom he finds oddly fascinating, despite the fact that her voice could etch glass. They also fight all the time, but make up just as fast.
So much to the disgust of the other Sex Pistols (especially Johnny Rotten) begin a passionate affair full of love, hate, sex and heroin addiction; Vicious lost focus on the band and drifting out on his own with Nancy. Little by little, the lovers slid into a hell of drugs, squalor and self-loathing -- until the day when Spungen died of a stab wound in the Chelsea Hotel.
They say that a lot of "Sid and Nancy" is fictionalized, but I'll freely admit that I'm not sure how much was. One thing is for sure -- the movie is a raw, painfully bleak experience occasionally lightened by moments of actual love and romance, but mostly overshadowed by the drugs and violence that were always present in Spungen and Vicious' relationship.
Alex Cox also does a brilliant job painting the punk subculture of the time -- lots of nastiness, screaming, blood, grime, garbage-filled alleys and howling music. And he spends the entire movie slowly sliding Spungen and Vicious down into their own private hell, alienating everybody and wrecking their bodies with drugs. The most horrible part is that he really makes you FEEL how they started with the world at their feet, but ended up in a world as small as their squalid hotel room.
The only problem is that sometimes he goes a bit overboard on the symbolism. Think garbage raining down like flowers during a Sid/Nancy kiss, or the weird prophetic dream where Sid shoots a "punk angel" Nancy only to have her come up onstage and embrace him.
Oldman and Webb are absolutely stunning in this role -- Oldman's face isn't quite like Vicious', but his mumbling emaciated performance is perfect. And every time you start to get sick of Vicious' antics, Oldman makes you feel sorry for him. And Webb's portrayal of Nancy is shrill and annoying enough to peel paint ("Whyyyyyyy?! I aaaaaaam noooooot! We are SO maaarried!"), but it's absolutely spot-on.
"Sid and Nancy" leaves you wondering if it's a rock'n'roll love story, or the tragic slide of two junkies into oblivion. Or, you know, both.