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

Director: Gabriel Range

Made without the approval of David Bowie's family, and unable to use any of his songs, this is still a competent and sometimes entertaining account of the singer's disastrous American tour of 1971, when he came expecting screaming crowds and ended up entertaining disinterested dining rooms and even, on one occasion, a conference of vacuum cleaner salesmen.

And all this without the company of his then-wife Angie (Malone), who was heavily pregnant back home in England.

Not only is Bowie (Flynn) unable to get any meaningful gigs, despite the best efforts of his US agent (a non-stop Woody Allen-style creation by Maron), but he fails to express himself in interviews which exasperate the interviewers and end up in the wastebin. The singer seems bewildered that US audiences just don't get the darkness and originality in his work.

That darkness partly stems from his own fear of mental illness, triggered by the asylum fate of his brother Terry (Moran), whose schizophrenia gets progressively worse.

Flynn, the handsome beast from Emma and TV's Vanity Fair, looks quite different here (with the help of flowing wigs and prosthetic teeth) and has Bowie's mannerisms, speech, stance and singing voice down pat. It's a gut-busting, well-researched performance, in a film which will probably disappoint many Bowie fans, but open a few doors for the rest of us.

David Quinlan

UK/Canada 2019. UK Distributor: Vertigo. Colour (uncredited).
109 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 2, Swearing 3.

Review date: 15 Jan 2021