Sid and Nancy (1986)

Sid and Nancy (1986)

“If I asked you to kill me, would you?”

Bass guitarist Sid Vicious (Gary Oldman) falls for a whining junkie (Chloe Webb) who sends them both on a downward spiral towards lethal violence.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Alcoholism and Drug Addiction
  • Biopics
  • Flashback Films
  • Musicians
  • Obsessive Love

Having recently reread Deborah Spungen’s heartbreaking account of her struggles to raise Nancy Spungen — the chaotically disturbed girl who gained infamy as punk rocker Sid Vicious’s slain girlfriend — I was curious to view Alex Cox’s cult film about the couple (which Spungen insists she’s never watched). (The film was also soundly disavowed by Sex Pistols lead singer Johnny Rotten, who claims he wasn’t consulted and that the film got everything “all wrong”.) Nearly three decades after “nauseating Nancy”‘s death by stabbing in New York’s Chelsea Hotel, the story holds some morbid fascination, but will likely only be of interest to true fans of early punk. On its own, it’s a challenging film to sit through, given its inherently unlikable protagonists: sure, Oldman and Webb give fine performances as the duo Roger Ebert referred to as the “Romeo and Juliet of punk”, but why should we care about their painfully dysfunctional existence?

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Gary Oldman as Sid Vicious
  • Chloe Webb as Nancy Spungen
  • Authentically gritty sets

  • Roger Deakins’ cinematography

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a look as a cult flick. Peary’s clearly a big fan, given that he lists this title as a Cult Movie, a film with Historical Importance, and a Personal Recommendation in the back of his book. He also nominates it as one of the Best Movies of the Year in his Alternate Oscars, and nominates both Oldman and Webb for their performances.


2 thoughts on “Sid and Nancy (1986)

  1. Not must-see.

    I have to agree with the assessment here. It’s almost irrelevant (in significant ways) that the film apparently “didn’t get it right” about these two.

    This is the kind of film that can almost be seen as ‘hetero camp’ – it can border on laughable for all the wrong reasons.

    When it was out on home video, I actually saw it several times. It’s ‘watchable’ in pure ‘car-wreck’ ways. You kind of can’t believe what you’re watching.

    Yes, Oldman and Webb throw themselves into the thing completely with the requisite wild abandon…but, I agree…why? Who the f**k cares?

  2. Johnny Rotten/Lydon was the lead singer of the Sex Pistols, not the guitarist (that is Steve Jones). [Ed. Note: Changed in review!] Everything associated about the Sex Pistols gets dismissed by Lydon, so his word isn’t always definitive (he is already panning the upcoming FX series created by Danny Boyle).

    With that said, Sid Vicious offered very little musical talent to the Sex Pistols. The previous bass player contributed greatly to their songs, and Vicious was mainly the look.

    Now…to the film. It does show the dangers of heroin addiction – from a more naive beginning to one easily coaxed into drug addition by Nancy. Oldman is spot on in his portrayal, and it shows why he would become an enduring actor. I find Chloe Webb to be grating – this is how Nancy Spungen acted. She is really a pitiful person in so many ways.

    I give this a tentative must watch for Oldman’s performance, and also as the closest Alex Cox got to a semi-masterpiece (even though Repo Man is pretty cool). Not for the faint of heart, and not as a definitive punk rock statement since this showed only one small fictionalized part.

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