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Sid and Nancy (1986)

by on 2011/02/03

“Stop where you are, I’m loaded.”

* * * *

On a quiet suburban street in the house at the end of the block, it is 40-somethings Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen’s turn to host book club night. On the menu, baked beans and champagne.

A nice newlywed couple from down the road ask Sid and Nancy how they met.

Sid: “Well, I was down at the pub with me mates when I noticed this blonde bird gettin’ a lager thrown in ‘er face. She’s screaming and runs out. So I follows ‘er.

Nancy: I ask Sid right off for ‘awl da cash he’s got so I can score some drugs. I tell him dat I’ll bring him back some. ‘Den I take off.

Sid: “She don’ come back and I don’ sees her again ’til I find her on ‘er ass on the sidewalk. She’s done been thrown outta a limo.”

Sid laughs and spews baked beans from between his yellow, broken teeth.

Nancy: “I didn’t have nowheres to go, so I went with Sid.”

Sid: “I done carved ‘er name in me chest, see? I loves ‘er.”

Sid lifts his shirt to reveal razor-blade slashes spelling N-A-N-C on his chest.

Polite coughs. The life insurance salesman’s wife stumbles to the powder room.

Nancy punctuates the end of their story by eating pages from the book the group is discussing. She lights a fire in the middle of the carpet and leaps onto the dining room table, screaming.

Sid smashes an empty bottle of Johnnie Walker into the middle of his forehead. He throws handfuls of blood and glass at the head of the PTA.

The book club disperses – quickly.

The above illustration is why it was probably better that these two star-crossed lovers burned out rather than faded away.

I first took in Sid & Nancy when I was 16 years old. I rented it for my sister’s 12th birthday. This was a miscalculation. I can admit that now.

At the ripe old age of 16, I was militant in my defence of Mr. Vicious and Miss Nancy amid a group of screaming, traumatized pre-teens and my angry parents. I found the whole punk movement intoxicating. I still do.

Directed by Alex Cox, this movie tells the tale of the “fabulous disaster” of Sid Vicious (Gary Oldman), bassist for the legendary punk band the Sex Pistols, and his love affair with Philadelphia-born groupie Nancy Spungen (Chloe Webb).

According to Sex Pistols’ lore, Sid could barely play the bass and was simply recruited by band promoter (instigator, manipulator) Malcom McLaren (David Hayman) because Sid was a walking, talking train wreck, “a metaphor” for a UK youth in turmoil.

The movie gives one a serviceable look into the Sex Pistols rise and rapid decline. The great spittle symphony that was the Sex Pistols was also a fabulous disaster, a string of accidents, an epic “taking the piss” across two countries.

On rewatch, I didn’t love Andrew Schofield’s performance of Johnny Rotten. His stage presence was more Donald Duck than Sir Laurence Olivier’s Richard the III – the apparent inspiration for the Sex Pistols frontman’s lurching, sinister, imperious demeanor.

With the roiling chaos that was the band as the backdrop, we watch the crazed, desperate love story of Sid and Nancy unfold. Oldman is pitch perfect, with the lost, naughty child quality I saw from actual footage of Sid Vicious. Webb gives her every last everything to the role, nailing the screeching, manic behaviours that gained Spungen the tabloid moniker “Nauseating Nancy.”

Webb’s performance wasn’t at all easy to watch or hear. It made me wonder whether the bruises that covered Webb’s pale body were real rather than clever movie make-up.

From the beginning of their relationship, Sid and Nancy were living in a slow-motion heroin haze in the middle of a beer- and rage-fuelled mob. Unsympathetic, out of step and just plain irritating, Sid gets kicked out of the band, and the two live hand to mouth as Sid tries to launch a solo career in New York.

It, like their relationship goes …poorly. So poorly. I’ll not give anything away. It needs to be seen, and felt to be believed. There’s a terrible poetry in the ending.

Enjoyable? Not in the strictest sense.  Romantic? Not conventionally. Fascinating? Definitely.

* * * *

Rated R for screaming, screaming, screaming, drugs, drugs, drugs and blood everywhere

112 minutes

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