Stardust

Movie review by
Alistair Lawrence, Common Sense Media
Stardust Movie Poster Image
Disappointing David Bowie biopic has language, sex, drugs.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 109 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Stands out for positive messages.

Positive Messages

Following your dreams and dedicating your life to your passion.

Positive Role Models

David Bowie is hardworking and determined. However, he is also narcissistic and selfish at times, too, appearing to take for granted those around him who are trying to help his career. He is supported and encouraged by his wife, Angie, and a loyal record company employee, Ron, who both back his artistic vision in the face of criticism and indifference from others. Other minor characters show Bowie kindness and support. There is no real diversity within the cast of characters, or prominent female roles. Some discussion of mental health issues, which are described as "madness."

Violence

A minor altercation, where a character falls to the floor and bloodies their palms.

Sex

Kissing. Characters are shown in silhouette having sex. References to an open marriage and group sex. Character asked if they are "homosexual," which is referred to as being sexually "deviant." Character talks about "good and hard" sex.

Language

Language used includes "f---ing," "f--k," "f---ed," "bastard," "twat," "bulls--t," and "s--t." "Jesus Christ" is used as an exclamation. Homophobic language includes "poofs" and "fairies." Americans are referred to as "Yanks" and Brits as "Limeys."

Consumerism

The importance of sales and promotion discussed by music industry workers.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink alcohol, and smoke marijuana and cigarettes, socially and in moderation. Characters snort cocaine together. Character offered acid but declines. Another character referred to as having done "too much acid… or not enough." References to a "drug-orientated album," "hash," and the effects of getting high.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Stardust is a drama inspired by David Bowie's first trip to America and contains plenty of references to sex, depictions of drug-taking, and strong language. Bowie (Johnny Flynn) and his wife, Angie (Jena Malone), have an open marriage. Bowie is seen having sex with another woman, but it is shown in silhouette with no graphic nudity. Drink, drugs, and smoking -- including pot -- feature throughout, mainly socially and in moderation. But Bowie does snort cocaine partly in what appears to be an attempt to mitigate his anxiety about his mental health issues, which he refers to as "madness" and going insane. Language features throughout, with multiple variations of "f--k," along with "bastard," "s--t," and "Jesus Christ." There are also derogatory terms for homosexuals used, including "poofs" and "fairies." The movie carries a positive message with its central premise of an artist who is determined to prove himself to a new audience and enter a new chapter of his career. However, at times Bowie does appear aloof and entitled. It is worth noting that the movie was made without the approval of the Bowie estate.

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What's the story?

STARDUST is a biopic inspired by David Bowie's first trip to the US in 1971. It's while on this tour that the iconic rock star decides to reinvent himself as... Ziggy Stardust.

Is it any good?

Made without the approval of the Bowie estate and drawing criticism from the family of his real-life colleague, Ron Oberman (Marc Maron), it's perhaps not surprising that this rock biopic falls flat. The movie's sole inspiration appears to be the commercial success of recent 1970s rock biopics Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman. Bowie's music doesn't feature, which leads to a lot of scenes discussing his appeal without ever really showing it. This robs the movie of any real energy or stakes, leaving only exposition-heavy dialogue and plenty of low-budget period wigs and costumes.

Both Flynn and Maron do their best to sell the road-movie premise. But Stardust is more akin to Somewhere, Sofia Coppola's examination of the downtime and behind-the-scenes listlessness that follows famous people from one promotional activity to the next. It's hard to imagine that a series of hotel lobbies and diners is how anyone wants to remember one of the most captivating rock stars who ever lived. The result is a movie that fails to live up to either its name or the very icon it attempts to portray.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the drinking, smoking, and drug use in Stardust. Did it surprise you that Bowie is shown being so open about his use of them? Were there any consequences of the drug use? Why is that important?

  • Discuss how the movie portrays sex. Was it affectionate? Respectful? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.

  • Talk about some of the strong language used. Did it seem necessary or excessive? What did it contribute to the movie?

  • How much did you know about David Bowie before this film? Did it seem like an accurate portrayal? Would you like to learn more about Bowie and his music?

  • Bowie's family has rejected the movie and refused to allow his music to be used. Did this impact your enjoyment of the movie? Should the wishes of someone's family be considered when making a biopic? Why or why not? How did this movie compare to other biopics you've seen?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love musical biopics

Themes & Topics

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