Mini Music Movie Review: Velvet Goldmine (1998)


This late ’90s film looks at the rock glam era and tells the story of fictional rock star Brian Slade. It shows his evolution from a mod rocker to a glam rock superstar who let fame get to his head. One thing that becomes clear fairly quick is the main character is loosely based off of David Bowie and some other glam stars of the era. Fun fact: Bowie himself hated the script and didn’t want any of his songs used. While the film doesn’t follow one particular rock star from the era, it at least gives viewers an idea about the scene and the music of the time.

The plot of the film is like a two hour episode of Behind the Music. We see his musical beginnings, his rise to fame, his downfall, and his life of obscurity. This doesn’t mean the film isn’t interesting; the flamboyant costumes and cast keeps you engaged. As you would expect there are quite a number of performances in the film. Some there of them are interesting, like “Baby’s on Fire,” but it grows tiring after a while. As we follow Brian’s journey to fame, we also experience his sexual awakening, which means lots of random sex scenes. We also get to see the reactions from his friends and family when they discover his bisexuality. It’s an interesting part of the story that leads to some scandalous moments.

While the movie is good, it’s pretty easy to get confused. So much happens between Brian’s career and his relationships it can be hard to keep up. There are also so many characters it’s sometimes difficult to figure out who they are. The one thing I remember having trouble with the most was figuring out who Brian was sleeping with and who he considered to be in a relationship with. It’s one of those movies where you feel like you have to watch at least two times before you really understand what’s going on.

If you’re a fan of glam rock, then you’ll love the music in the film. The soundtrack features a lot of songs from the era, but most of them are covered by other artists like Placebo, Thom Yorke, and even Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who stars in the movie. All the artists do a respectable job of covering classics like “20th Century Boy,” “Diamond Meadows,” “Hot One,” and “Satellite of Love.” One of my favorites is “Baby’s on Fire.” I was actually surprised at how good Rhys sounded while singing. It can’t compete with the original, but he still does a great job.

As mentioned earlier, the movie does a pretty good job of recreating the glam era, but sometimes the excessive plot makes it easy to get lost. This is one of those weird films where you actually like it, but find it’s not that memorable. There are a few key scenes that stand out, but otherwise the film is a blur, which is how I feel about The Doors movie. If you’re a music buff or a Bowie fan, I recommend you check it out. It’s not the best music movie out there, but it’s a decent one that’s at least entertaining.


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