Ian Dury was one of the main forces of the punk/new wave music scene in England in the 1970s -- but what about Ian Dury the man, the artist, the father? Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll is a look at this flawed genius.

Andy Serkis plays the adult Ian Dury, and Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll focuses on Dury's life and career during three periods: His struggling music of the late 1960s, fame and success through the 1970s, and excess and failings in the 1980s. Through these times the most important people to Dury are his wife Betty (Olivia Williams), who Dury separates from but cannot divorce; Denise (Naomie Harris), Dury's mistress who sometimes gets on better with Betty than with him; and Baxter (Bill Milner), Dury's young son.

In this movie Dury is, overall, a rascal. He's passionate about both art and life, perfectly suited for partying and performing. (At one point he tells young people he thinks of himself more as an entertainer than a singer.) He's also reckless, self-destructive, and almost indifferent to the pain and chaos he brings to those around him. Flashbacks show Dury struggling with polio, while his limp in the present is the least of his problems.

As with many biopics, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll focuses almost solely on the star, with other characters existing to react to the central character. Fortunately, Andy Serkis is terrific as Dury, making him larger than life -- and very aware of his flaws while not trying to change them. Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll isn't about the music (though the music performances here are energetic and show why Dury was so popular) but the man. The style of this movie is sometimes uneven -- fast flashbacks, slow dramatic scenes, occasionally having Dury telling his life story during a rock concert -- but director Mat Whitecross makes both Dury and the supporting cast real people instead of shallow stereotypes. For a portrait of the artist as a charming narcissist, check out Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch

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