Stardust written and directed by Gabriel Range and co-written by Christopher Bell stars Johnny Flynn of Emma fame as a young David Bowie who like a meteor has crashed down hard back to Earth from his first big hit, Space Oddity. Bowie is not only struggling with the forging of his craft, persona, and the eventual stardom and magnetism we all think of him to have always had but he’s also fearful of the family secret, mental illness. While this seems like it would be a fascinating deep dive into a a beloved star’s past, or according to the extremely deceiving trailers, an inspirational rise to stardom, Stardust much like its main character is just as lost in space.
Johnny Flynn’s performance as David Bowie was superb as he is able to strip back the artist and superstar that we know David Bowie as in his posterity, he is able to accurately and emotionally portray an artist that is still unsure of his talent all while at the same time anxious about his own identity and future but you can still see the beginnings of the more confident artist that is to write his name across the stars in later years. Flynn does really sound and looks like Bowie had in the early years which helped add to those emotional parts of the performance.
Despite his performance, the film is structured in a way that most musician biopics are made in that it follows the beginnings and struggles of an artist trying to become the artists that we later know them as. We all know the tired formula, musician has humble and damaging past, they sabotage themselves over and over again whether it be with drugs, sex, or going too far. The interplay of going back to certain moments in David’s past with his brother’s schizophrenia and how it affected his life while important and are by far the most interesting parts of Stardust the timing of going back and forth between the past and the present or in between made the film feel unorganized at times. On top of the scattered feel of the film, the trailer released for the public to decide whether they want to see the film or not almost completely erases its most intriguing story.
When the trailer found it’s way to Twitter nearly a month after I first watched the film, I was shocked to see how different the tone was. The use of inspirational music, the use of rock star equivalents of “Live, Laugh, Love” quotes to try to drive home how Bowie’s story was this amazing one of overcoming all the odds felt very shallow and anti-Bowie which brings me to my last point, Stardust wasn’t authorized by the Bowie family which means you’re not hearing your favorite songs or any Bowie songs for that matter, not even Space Oddity, which is the only measure of success Bowie has at the beginning of the film. Instead of it being used, it is represented by a recreation of the final sequence of 2001: A Space Odyssey as the film’s opening scene.
Although having strong intentions with the exploration of how a deeply personal fear of mental illness and the emotional toll one takes on themselves trying to become the star they know they might be able to be, with it’s cheesy lines, sentiment, and its cookie cutter plot, Stardust isn’t a Moonage Daydream.