Velvet Goldmine - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Velvet Goldmine Reviews

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½ April 28, 2016
The glam rock era of the 1970s was a time of sexual experimentation, gaudy fashion, and surprisingly ballsy music. Coming at the tail end of the free love hippie movement of the 1960s, it was a period that was characterized as being seemingly fearless and disapproving of societal normalities, curious about gender fluidity and about as obsessed with exterior glamour as the '20s were at their most roaring. It's among the most instantaneously recognizable movements in music history - good thing much of the work remains to be timeless. Then all the free-wheeling would be for nothing.
1998's "Velvet Goldmine," a bouncy pleasuring of bonkers visual patina, is arresting in the way it captures the glam era's flamboyancy. Though inevitably capturing the darkness of certain aspects of the time, it retains the romanticism we place upon it, from its incessant self-indulgence to the pulsating confidence of its defining figures.
It's a biopic of sorts, revolving around a central figure that is suspiciously quite a lot like David Bowie. Bowie is, of course, smarter, less periodically legendary, and more calculated in his theatrical showing-offs. But I think "Velvet Goldmine" isn't so much intent on telling the story of a fake pop idol as it is intent on paying homage to glam rock's insanity, using the characters as placeholders to make it all seem like more than just inspired, kinetic style.
It is set in 1984, where the days of Ziggy Stardust and KISS are long gone and where cynical grit has replaced the exciting (and perhaps cinematically bloated) liberties of the 1970s. Such a year does not mean much to most people unless we're talking about George Orwell's literary masterpiece, but to Arthur Stuart (Christian Bale), a tabloid journalist, it means a great deal. It marks for the tenth anniversary of the disappearance of Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a bodacious, bisexual rock icon who staged his own assassination (later proven to be a hoax).
Arthur, gay and introverted, looked to Slade during his youth as though he were a sort of god. Growing up in a conservative household, the musician's music and image were the closest thing he ever felt to social acceptance. And so Slade, whose false murder he witnessed, is perhaps even more important to him than his own father, being a symbol of the boundless self-expression he's never been able to emulate. Since that traumatic event in 1974, it's assumed that Arthur has had a hard time recovering. So lucky for him that his boss assigns him to investigate the hoax further, to discover why Slade did what he did and maybe even find out where the rocker currently plays house.
He gets leads from several of Slade's closest confidants, most notably his ex-socialite ex-wife Mandy (Toni Collette), and is given information that any fanatic would kill to discover. Most compelling is his relationship with Curt Wild (Ewan McGregor), a comparatively batshit idol with whom he had a brief but influential professional and personal affiliation. Finding Slade, though, is a challenge, possibly even an impossibility. It's as if he were banished from a land where the citizens actually wanted him, as if the progression from superstardom to reclusiveness were more natural than simply announcing a hiatus or a permanent retirement.
In essence, I've just relayed the general gist of "Velvet Goldmine." Like director Todd Haynes's similarly challenging "I'm Not There" (2007), a Bob Dylan biopic that employed six actors to play the man, it doesn't much have a necessarily streamlined plot. Slade is only seen through flashback. Every time Arthur interviews someone, their memories are fashioned into the form of a memory, giving us diverse tellings of Slade that are more investing because of their musical sequences and their orgies of visual opulence, not because the elusive character is so multifaceted and interesting himself.
Admittedly, "Velvet Goldmine's" breakneck speed and habit of getting too lost in its mystique makes it seem ethereal instead of grounded. It feels more like an exercise in style than a meaningful work, which is disappointing considering the dramatic possibility that could grow from material of its caliber. But it's so lusciously rendered and so fetchingly tuneful that resisting its superfluities is a losing fight. Haynes has all the right moves, and Meyers and McGregor are astonishingly good as would-be glam rockers; Meyers easily could have fit into the era had he been born earlier and had he tried. "Velvet Goldmine" gets a little carried away; but there's nothing wrong with an explosion of color when the occasion arises.
½ April 23, 2016
Flamboyant mess. And too long. But some great moments.
March 6, 2016
Great movie. Jonathan RM is so beautiful....
½ February 17, 2016
A really fun movie with excellent performances from the whole ensemble including Ewan McGregor, Johnathan Rhys Meyers, Eddie Izzard, Christian Bale, and Toni Colette. I think this may be or at least tied with Carol my favorite Todd Haynes movie and the first time he really let loose and had fun with a movie. A lot of his movies are super serious or romantic but this is vibrant with excellent musical numbers, costumes, make up, hair, art direction, writing, and cinematography.
½ February 1, 2016
A beautifully-designed film that, unfortunately, meanders to no good end. It took me nowhere really, and eventually I lost my patience (but I certainly didn't mind the eye candy).
January 31, 2016
Loved it.. The storyline was interesting... Loved JRM..
January 27, 2016
Visually dazzling, sociologically insightful, and well-acted, Velvet Goldmine is an interesting celebration of glam-rock culture and sexual rebellion with a groovy soundtrack, even if it's clumsy plot offers little charisma.
½ January 24, 2016
I liked 'Velvet Goldmine', but I wish they would have gotten more rights and could have used songs from David Bowie and Iggy Pop, since they are who the 2 leads are based on. The film works very similarly to 'Citizen Kane' as a reporter is trying to find out about an ambiguous celebrity, but this film is truly its own film. The film is a lot too out their at times and I even got bored with some parts. I was a little disappointed with the ending since it would have handled it as a big twist, but it doesn't have any shock factor (maybe it would have if it would have been made in the past decade). Overall, not a bad film at all, but a film that had tons of potential and only ended up being okay.
½ January 23, 2016
I want this movie added to the list of things we hide from the aliens.
January 8, 2016
Weird movie diving into bl territory but it wasn't bad.
December 13, 2015
Having no idea what to expect from Velvet Goldmine, I simply went in blind hoping for some sort of stylish glitz and glam.

As that was the sense of my expectation I can certainly say that Velvet Goldmine catered to my hopes, but the convoluted narrative style was most unprecedented for me. Ensuring that audiences are not mislead by the project, the tagline for Velvet Goldmine is "Leave your expectations at the door" which is perhaps the most truthful tagline I have ever heard for any feature film. Having later discussed Velvet Goldmine with he who recommended it to me , it was explained to me that the characters Brian Slade and Curt Wild were allegorical representations of musicians David Bowie and Iggy Pop respectively. Upon further reading I learned that there was more to it than even that, but the simple fact is that as a viewer who didn't grow up during the heyday of these musicians and who is not educated enough on musical history to recognize this symbolism, it becomes all the more difficult to understand the true value of the film beneath its already complicated plot structure.
Velvet Goldmine is like a tale of The Beatles on an acid trip through an episode of Are You Being Served?. By that I mean the film is a very trippy experience, combining a lot of electric colours and intense atmosphere with a non-linear story structure which weaves the tales of multiple characters into a single film, creating an experience which can be intentionally very convoluted. Though the stylish energy of the film in terms of tone, visuals and soundtrack certainly provide the appropriate mood for the glam rock that the narrative is modeled after, the genuine coherence of the narrative is not one that viewers are likely to embrace if they don't recognize the messages buried within the film. The narrative style explored by director Todd Haynes is one he would later touch upon again with his surrealist Bob Dylan biopic I'm Not There (2007) where he explored things more directly with greater clarity, structure and consistent sensibility. In that sense it can be argued that Velvet Goldmine provided the director a step in the right direction towards establishing a greater sense of style as a filmmaker which would progressively develop into a better sense of structure.
Either way, one thing I can certify is that the overall tone of the film is rather intriguing. Velvet Goldmine maintains a trippy nature which is established by Todd Haynes' sense of style. Merging the film's timely soundtrack with strong imagery, the mood is practically hypnotic. The cinematography of the film is consistently atmospheric and works to find imagery in everything it captures which means finding life in the scenery, but more importantly it is the Academy Award nominated costumes that provide the most colour to the experience. The feeling of glam rock is established through various means in Velvet Goldmine, but the dedication to colourful detail in the costumes alone supply more than enough to bring that feeling to prominence. And though the story is very loosely tied together, the manner in which the multiple narratives are weaved together through quick edits and moments of musical charge are essential to establishing the trippy mood of the feature. I can't say that I fully understood Velvet Goldmine, but I can certify that I got a certain sense of enjoyment out of the quick-moving style of the feature even if the enjoyment was sporadic at best.
And though a lack of narrative structure stands in the way of character development, this does not mean that a talented collection of performances is mutually exclusive from the film.
Between his breakout performance in Trainspotting (1996) and his franchise success in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999), Ewan McGregor decided to take on the role of Curt Wild in Velvet Goldmine. Capturing a free-spirited energy and edgy nature reminiscent of Kurt Cobain, Ewan McGregor stands out amongst the cast in Velvet Goldmine for being both one of the most recognizable cast members and for his ability to truly bring the material to life when he needs to. Amid the chaotic narrative are some truly powerful moments of intense drama that Ewan McGregor is responsible for delivering, and his ability to bring both this and a restrained flamboyant energy to his role is a most definite asset. Ewan McGregor's charms are an asset to any film that has the privelege of using them, and Velvet Goldmine is no exception.
When I first saw the face of Christian Bale on the screen, I had no idea what to say. Since the man is currently an accomplished dramatic actor with an Academy Award and the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy to his name, to see his face in a such an unconventional role is an unexpected but most welcome trait for Velvet Goldmine. His voice articulation channels a different accent to anything else he has tackled before, and with it comes the line delivery of an organic charm and sophistication. Christian Bale is an actor who continues to impress, even with performances from years ago.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers also delivers a firm effort. Though he may not have the same legacy as many of those around him, Jonathan Rhys Meyers remains notorious in Velvet Goldmine for the way that he easily embraces the mood of everything around him. Keeping up with all the story twists, Jonathan Rhys Meyers makes a firm effort to ensure his status as the lead of Velvet Goldmine is the furthest thing from miscast. Jonathan Rhys Meyers delivers a skilful performance where he effectively demonstrates an understanding of the entire universe around him no matter how complicated it is, and his young charm is fueled with charisma.

So Velvet Goldmine boasts an effective vision into director Todd Haynes' sense of style and his passion for glam rock, but the musical allegories of the story get lost amid a convoluted structure and an obsession with style over substance.
December 12, 2015
Velvet Goldmine is gay with a capital "G" and features several pretty dudes in skin-tight leotards and should therefore appeal to me, but its sloppy, insanely excessive (yes, yes, it should feel appropriate given the subject but it just feels bloated and indulgent) execution renders it a dull, overwhelming sit. It borrows a central narrative device from Citizen Kane that forces the film to exhibit several qualities that parodies of musical biopics like to riff on ("It was 1975..."), reducing a visually ambitious work to something that feels familiar in a way that's unfortunate given Haynes' vision. Its adoption of a "more is more" approach to style regularly results in superfluous sequences that drag on for too long, something that wouldn't have happened if this had been filmed in the low-budget way that this sort of material warrants. This idea presents another problem; for such a bold, sexually adventurous quasi-subject (the lack of actual Bowie material is yet another setback), it feels narratively tame, proving that this sort of story would've faired better in the hands of someone like Derek Jarman who'd have been willing to make a polarizing, excessive film without sacrificing brevity and without resorting to expensive filmic trickery. I can't not like a Todd Haynes film, so I found enough here to warrant a recommendation (it's admirable that he's tried to make a tribute to all of queer rock/art and how it helps younger generations of gay kids, for example), but it's certainly not one of his better outings nor should it be considered the cornerstone of glittery gay cinema as it is in certain corners of the internet.
September 6, 2015
El auge y caida de un rockstar sirve aunque no del todo brillante como una imagen radiografica de uno de los generos definitivos de la musica setentera.A destacar Christian Bale y Ewan Mc Gregor
August 1, 2015
This is a truly strange and unique little movie, on the surface (and this movie is all surface really) nothing much works, the acting is really uneven, the accents are terrible ( thank you, movie people, for never allowing an american accent to come out of Ewan McGregor's mouth again) and it even seems to get the era of music a bit wrong, this feels more 80's new wave than 70's glam rock, although the movie is really capturing an entire time (the mid 60's through to the early 80's) but alot of it feels misguided and confused, especially in regards to what the movie is trying to actually say, if anything, about it's subject, there is a view to be had that it's a haunting, faded, fever dream recollection of a lost time of music, rather than a conventional biopic/ period tale, it's a kind of drugged up fairy tale, rise and fall of a star, detective story as well. Weather there's any real subject matter here to be had, this is still an absolutely fascinating film, experimental and feverish, visually fantastic and very unconventional a look at how quickly things that are in become passe, forgotten, it is then, possibly a eulogy on a lost time in music history that happened and moved on too quick for some, certainly director Todd Haynes, there's a sad, bittersweet quality to it all that lingers after. Other things that linger in the mind, McGregor bumming Christian Bale, a strange sight.
½ July 31, 2015
Haynes took the structure straight from Citizen Kane but let's just say this is Haynes' Inland Empire, where narratives are repeatedly filtered through many sexual, pop-cultural and temporal glasses. This is the Citizen Kane for hippies (?), though I'm not sure whether it's accessible even to them. It's also too cynical, if not for the ending.
June 19, 2015
Bad music is the main problem, another huge one is lack of conclusion, poor narrative-style and boring characters. Christian Bale steals the show mostly.
May 25, 2015
The critics failed to grasp the magic contained in Todd Hayne's passionate ode to the era of Glam Rock. It is all a very veiled interpretation -- or possibly fantasy of that glitter rock era that was so fueled by erotic teasing from the likes of David Bowie and Iggy Pop. Haynes applies an truly mythic sic-fi spin on of rock's most creative / experimental eras. The performances of the cast match the neon and trip-like excessive pitch of the movie. Visually and aurally stunning, Velvet Goldmine explodes with imagination and desire. Completely unique and a nostalgic rebel yell of a movie.
½ February 6, 2015
Written and directed by Todd Haynes (Poison (1991), Safe (1995) and I'm Not There (2007)), this is a visually stunning but absolutely insane and nearly incoherent music drama, set around the most flamboyant time in music history, and ever so partially inspired by the lives of David Bowie and Iggy Pop, (even though Haynes claims it isn't really), this is a weird outsider's view on the brash glam rock scene. In 1984, homosexual journalist Arthur Stuart (Christian Bale) is asked to find out what happened to bi-sexual glam rock star Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), who faked his own death and disappeared from public life a decade before, Stuart is chosen as he was at the concert where the assassination happened. Stuart investigates Slade's life, and explores the relationship Slade had with his wife Mandy (Toni Collette), his dubious manager Jerry Devine (Eddie Izzard) and also Slade's friendship with American hard rocker Curt Wild (Ewan McGregor), and the working relationship they had, but Stuart finds a lot of secrets. It's a very colourful and loud film, but it's plot owes a big debt of gratitude to Citizen Kane (1941), with the search for the elusive "Rosebud" here being the hunt for a reclusive rock star. It's not perfect, and a lot of it is hammed up and camped up to high heaven. Bowie wanted nothing to do with the film. Shame, he would have liked it.
½ December 15, 2014
Visuals and Soundtrack rocked! Instead of wasting so much of the story on the never ending search for Slade they should have searched for a better script!
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