You know Stoned is in desperate trouble early on, when a drug-taking scene is underscored by Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit." You'd think by now that any sane director would realize this little ditty passed its expiration date years ago, and has now become an Official Cinematic Cliché. But first-time director Stephen Woolley seems to be so clueless about nearly everything to do with filmmaking, it's no surprise he's reverted to the crashingly banal.
Stoned is meant to be about Brian Jones (Leo Gregory), co-founder of the Rolling Stones, who was discovered dead in his swimming pool in 1969 at age 27. The film is mostly about Jones' last few months, when he was holed away in a country estate drinking and drugging while Mick, Keith and the bunch met and eventually decided to kick him out of the band. Stoned also details the relationship between Jones and Frank Thorogood (Paddy Considine), the builder he hired to remodel his sprawling home. The film alleges that Thorogood became a bit too attracted to Jones' dissipated lifestyle, and when he was fired from the job, accidentally killed the rocker in a fit of pique.
Not that anyone watching this mess would care who lives or dies. Except for copious amounts of male and female nudity, Stoned has absolutely nothing to recommend it. Neal Purvis and Robert Wade's tired screenplay barely touches on what made Jones important, or what his role with the Stones was, and settles instead for endless sex, drugs and domestic violence sequences straight out of the increasingly tired Druggie Rocker on the Skids genre (i.e., Gus Van Sant's Last Days).
Worse, lead actor Gregory has no charisma or sex appeal, and comes off as little more than a bad little boy on holiday from one of those repressive English public schools. Maybe that's what Jones really was; if true, it makes for a boring movie.
Add to all this the final insult: Woolley's total inability to connect with the era. The director seems to think it was all about tie-dyed clothes, multi-partner sex and sun-drenched visits to exotic Marrakesh. (Luckily, he doesn't make use of Crosby, Stills and Nash's "Marrakesh Express.") But it was so much more than that: an era of cultural, political and sexual upheaval, during which the Stones played a highly visible role. Stoned barely hints at this, and is all the worse for the omission.
What should we make of a film this dreadful? Just this: Stephen Woolley, who has been a producer or executive producer on more than 45 movies and TV shows dating back to 1983, has learned nothing of use for his feature debut.