Timothy Spall + Marc Bolan should = guaranteed success, right? Well, sadly not...
Director: Ian Puleston-Davies
Starring: Timothy Spall, Leanne Best, Mark Lewis Jones
Running time: 95 minutes
Marc Bolan fans: You might think Bolan’s Shoes, the brand new drama from BAFTA nominee Ian Puleston-Davies, is a must-watch. After all, it has your hero’s name in the title, boasts a number of tracks from the glam rock icon’s discography, and pledges to emphasise “the life-affirming power of music” in its synopsis.
Yet, despite all this, it’s impossible not to feel that this film merely pays lip service to the legendary musician, caring more about adding an exciting name to its headline - to cut through the noise during a busy period in cinema - than crafting a tale that’s truly guided by his artistry.
As a result, rather than a genuine celebration of music, what develops over the 95-minute runtime is a perfectly serviceable but also largely forgettable piece that fails to stand out in the way its namesake did in the 1970s.
Following siblings Jimmy (Timothy Spall) and Penny (Leanne Best) from childhood through to adulthood, exploring how one traumatic event changed the trajectory of their lives in vastly different ways, this is a properly dramatic drama with an impressive cast that is led by one of British acting’s finest.
Any Bolan fan will undoubtedly strike a wide grin when they hear the artist’s foot-stomping tunes on the big screen, but to say his name is right there in the title, there is little in the way of a noticeable impact of his work on the narrative or the tone
It’s a shame, then, that said cast is given largely little to do - the awkward, on-the-nose script hamstringing what is undoubtedly a set of top performers. Spall tries to flex his theatrical muscles as Jimmy, who is suffering from PTSD and loneliness, but it’s certainly not one of his most memorable performances. Best fully commits to her role, but is derailed by too many cringe-inducing lines of dialogue. And Notts’ own Matthew Horne is saddled with a painfully one-dimensional character, his ‘Jez’ reduced to little more than ‘angry drunk man being angry’ (even the abrupt phonetics of his name feel lacking in subtlety).
The absence of genuine effort to incorporate the titular musician’s influence and style into the film is a disappointment, too. Any Bolan fan will undoubtedly strike a wide grin when they hear the artist’s foot-stomping tunes on the big screen, and there are pleasing references and Easter eggs throughout - but to say Bolan’s name is right there in the title, there is little in the way of a noticeable impact of his work on the narrative or the tone here. The nods to Bolan are largely superfluous, and feel crowbarred in to attract a certain audience.
That said, there is certainly an audience for this; fans of soap opera melodrama are very likely to get hooked on the twisty story, and when Spall and Best get the chance to share the screen, there are definite glimpses of their undoubted skills as performers. If that sounds up your street, strap on your shoes and see if your local cinema has got it on. If it’s not? Well, you might have more fun sitting on a log picking ticks off your dog...
Bolan’s Shoes is showing in cinemas from Friday 15 September
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