Pistols: Uh… Punk? – Daily movies

Punk at Disney? It’s contradictory, it’s an oxymoron, but it’s true. A 6-episode Sex Pistols mini-series is coming to Disney+. What does punk look like with Mickey Mouse sauce?

Disney+ continues its unstoppable conquest of streaming and constantly expands its offering. Thanks to programs with the “Star” stamp, the platform now has the opportunity to have a wider choice of programs, and with them, the provision of an additional portion of viewers: the adult audience.

Good. How about punk in all this? It’s coming to Disney+ in 2022 by coincidence, to say the least. Danny Boyle (British filmmaker known worldwide for his Trainspotting), reminiscent of a 70s ex-punk, embarks on a nostalgic project for a Sex Pistols series. He collaborated with screenwriter Craig Pierce, who used a pre-made story to film the band’s history: The Memoirs of the band’s guitarist, Steve Jones. This is the title “Lonely Boy: Tales From a Sex Pistol”, released in 2016, which traces the history of the band’s founding, its sudden fame and no less rapid collapse. The project is launched, Danny Boyle begins to look for a distributor for his mini-series. In the end, the agreement falls on Disney – the first, it seems, to accept the Danny Boyle project. An unexpected mix of genres. Everything is ready for Pistol.

So far, so good. The next step ? Casting. A selective choice, with British actors whose name alone has already established itself, such as Maisie Williams or Thomas Brodie-Sangster, others lesser known, such as Anson Boon, Louis Partridge, and others, such as Jacob Slater – a real musician, and an apprentice actor who signed his first filming experience there. So many actors are playing a fictional version of a story that actually happened. Thus, the first episode focuses on Jordan, played by Maisie Williams, who died shortly before the series aired.

Pistol is a funny balancing act that alternates between archival imagery, a biopic told in the manner of childhood memories, and scenes so implausible that they shudder. The raw materials are, of course, explosive – it is risky to try to retell an era that, although it has ended, is not so far away. Punk may be in his fifties, but his original members are still present. Danny Boyle is one of them; John Lydon (the band’s lead singer, known by his stage name Johnny Rotten) is another. As such, the latter called the series a “middle-class fairy tale” and in 2021 attempted to prevent the band’s music from being used in the series.

It’s hard to blame him. If the series painstakingly tries to show all the facets of punk, its main plot fails. She digs especially deep when Sid Vicious comes up with a stage name for himself. This happens after meeting a pet hamster named Sid. Hamster Sid bites his hand. “Wow, Sid is so mean,” he comments. Without a doubt, we are at Disney.

The heroes tell their story, constantly characterize themselves, admire each other without stopping. Danny Boyle is well aware that the Sex Pistols were considered a “punk boy band” due to the involvement of their manager, Malcolm McLaren, pulling the strings backstage. So he twists the puppeteer metaphor to the point of suffocation, having Thomas Brodie-Sangster play a campy Mad Hatter who talks to “his little sewer rats” and urges them to “make a revolution.” Too much meta-discourse is tiresome. Worse still, it is a neglect of an essential and necessary component of the punk movement: impulsiveness. Punks out Pistol ambitiously plan for the future, mourn their fate, and then calmly think about how to “make history” (apparently the answer is: learn to play the guitar by picking up speed for three days in a row). Good.

Nothing to leave, except maybe the female characters in the series. The trio of Jordan, Chrissie Hynde and Vivienne Westwood – respectively the muse of punk, the singer of The Pretenders and the stylist at the origins of the Sex Pistols aesthetic – return alone, exchanging otherwise so flat that no one seems to believe it. FROM PistolDisney is missing out on punk a lot. The opposite would no doubt be disturbing.

USA, UK – 2022 – 60 min – biopic, musical
Created by Craig Pierce
Cast: Toby Wallace, Sydney Chandler, Christian Lis
Available on Disney+

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