The sordid, pathetic lives of Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and his groupie girlfriend Nancy Spungen might strike some as unsuitable material for a movie romance, but British filmmaker Alex Cox brings their embattled relationship and tragic end to powerful cinematic life.
SID AND NANCY opens in 1978, as police arrive at New York's Chelsea Hotel to find the body of Nancy (Chloe Webb) in the couple's bathroom and zombie-like Sid (Gary Oldman) staring at the wall and holding a knife. The film then flashes back to 1977 when the couple first meet at the home of Linda
(Anne Lambton), a friend of Sid's and Johnny Rotten's (Drew Schofield). Nancy is a loud, whining, American rock 'n' roll groupie who's wound up in London at the height of the punk rock movement. She's impressed when she learns that Linda's guests are members of the infamous Sex Pistols, the
brainchild of young entrepreneur Malcolm McLaren (David Hayman). (Sid, born John Ritchie, abandoned his role as drummer for the nascent Siouxsie and the Banshees to replace original Sex Pistol bassist Glen Matlock.) That night, she goes to hear the band, riding high on the British charts with "God
Save the Queen," their second single, and later tries to seduce Rotten, but he declares sex "boring" and leaves her to Vicious.
A few days later Sid spots Nancy in a pub and follows her when she runs out yelling and crying; another rocker has absconded with her heroin money. Angry and frustrated, Spungen scrapes her knuckles on a brick wall. "That looks like it hurts," Sid tells her sympathetically. "So does this," he
continues, and brutally slams his head into the brick wall, a gesture which Nancy seems to understand and appreciate. Sid then gives Nancy money to buy heroin for both of them; although she's already a full-blown junkie, Sid has never done hard drugs.
SID AND NANCY does not canonize Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen, the Sex Pistols or the punk movement itself, nor does it glamorize the couple's horrible self-destruction. (Sid died of a heroin overdose on February 2, 1979, before his case could be tried.) Although Cox, abetted by co-screenwriter
Abbe Wool, often displays a black, quirky sense of humor, the horror of drug addiction is always at the forefront and never made light of.
The performances of Oldman and Webb, both stage-trained veterans, are simply astonishing. SID AND NANCY will certainly be tough going for viewers unfamiliar with the punk movement and unprepared for the extraordinary amount of cynicism, ignorance, anger, and self-abuse that went hand-in-hand with
it, but the film's value lies in its honest, unflinching gaze at a social phenomenon.
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- Released: 1986
- Rating: R
- Review: The sordid, pathetic lives of Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and his groupie girlfriend Nancy Spungen might strike some as unsuitable material for a movie romance, but British filmmaker Alex Cox brings their embattled relationship and tragic end to powerf… (more)