The Rolling Stones: Charlie is My Darling Movie Review

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The Stones are turning up on the big screen in two different movies right now, and nearly a half century apart in each. And yes, it’s purely coincidental.

The UK rock group with amazingly sustained longevity, currently graces the soundtrack of the Robert Zemeckis disaster thriller Flight, as backdrop to Denzel Washington’s booze and coke frazzled airline pilot protagonist. But there’s also a lost and found rare gem of the first movie ever made about the rising rockers back in 1965, The Rolling Stones: Charlie Is My Darling, and in its theatrical debut for the first time ever. And it offers quite a surprising glimpse into where it all began for them, way before they or anyone else knew exactly where it might be going.

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Trade ad for 1965 Rolling Stones’ North American tour.

With the movie title Charlie Is My Darling taken from a traditional Irish ballad, the song refers to the up and coming boy band’s two city, four concert tour of Dublin and Belfast back then. The documentary is actually recut and remastered by Mick Gochancour and Robin Klein from the Peter Whitehead original film, Charlie Is My Darling-Ireland 1965, and with casual offstage jamming and philosophizing tossed in.

But what is most fascinating about the film, is the group quite candidly sharing their conflicted feelings of delight and discomfort with sudden fame. And the awkward astonishment expressed by the stunned Stones and their young fans alike, as celebrityhood in progress first played out.

Which leads to moments of collective reflection as to why it was happening, and best articulated by Mick Jagger. Who rightly prophesied a genuine connection they were forging for the first time ever historically with increasingly disaffected youth, through popular music that suddenly spoke to class conflict and consciousness (Play With Fire), along with anti-establishment rebellion against conformity and commercialism (Satisfaction – hitting the charts at #1 in the world and displacing the reigning Beatles). In effect introducing a high impact subversion of conventional music back then limited and locked into romance, to which even the Beatles were still deferring.

And though songs may have concealed messages laden with sociopolitical distress (such as the Red Scare/McCarthy period covert lyrics of ‘You Can’t Take That Away From Me’ and ‘Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer), who would have ever imagined the raw, uninhibited social rage to come. As memorialized by the Stones with that man on the radio ‘telling me more and more about some useless information.’ Or the television ‘telling me how white my shirts can be,’ and how you can’t be a man because you don’t ‘smoke the same cigarette as me.’

Of course all that has changed dramatically, and it’s not just an enlightened aversion to cigarette smoking in the present. Let’s just say the back to basics, unpretentious gritty and grainy Charlie Is My Darling spotlights with a mixture of nostalgia and paradox, a time when ‘satisfaction’ was more about the labor of love music than media attention. And before it became corporatized, which was exactly what the Stones were railing against concerning everything else. Not to mention a discomfort with superstardom and fame once upon a time, that has now ironically evolved into obsessive anxiety when one is without it.

Brainstorm Media

Unrated

3 stars

To see the trailer of Charlie is My Darling:

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network's Arts Express.