With Valentine’s Day approaching, it seems fitting to pay homage to a classic romantic tale of undying love and devotion – “Sid and Nancy.”
Alex Cox’s 1986 flick chronicles the fatal relationship between Sex Pistol Sid Vicious and his American girlfriend, Nancy Spungen. Sid allegedly stabbed Nancy to death in the Hotel Chelsea in October 1978 before dying of a heroin overdose in February 1979. Nancy was 20 at the time of her death; Sid, 21, at his.
Conspiracy theories have surfaced concerning Nancy’s murder, but the movie suggests she goaded Sid into killing her as part of a suicide pact he had agreed to earlier in the film.
Whatever the case, Gary Oldman (Sid) and Chloe Webb (Nancy) perfectly portray a loving yet volatile couple hindered by drugs and other demons.
So powerful is Oldman that, in photos, I cannot distinguish between him and the real Sid Vicious. Of course, since “Sid and Nancy,” Oldman has awed us with one career-defining role after another and he finally received an Academy Award nomination this year. (About damn time, I might add.) But I wish Webb had achieved more acting success. She’s both sad and annoying as Nancy. At times, you wonder what took Sid so long. At others, like when her family refuses to let the couple spend the night, you feel sorry for her. At various points in the movie, I almost wanted to hug her.
Just “almost,” though, because she and Sid looked like they smelled bad and I worried about their kitten’s welfare. I wondered what the poor little kitty ate and where it did its business. Not that cat waste would have damaged the duo’s property or health.
Cox and his team did an excellent job depicting the reality of the drug lifestyle. By the time of Nancy’s death, Webb already looked embalmed and it wasn’t difficult to understand why Nancy couldn’t face another day of such an existence.
And although the movie depicts a heavy subject, it does not do so without humor. I’ve always laughed during the one-sided telephone conversation in which Nancy, who’s working with the S&M dominatrix Linda while Sid and the Pistols tour America, explains she can’t “put it in a box and send it” to Sid and advises, “I guess you’re just going to have to have sex with somebody else.”
But much of the humor is tinged with sadness. When Sid tries to cheer up Nancy by suggesting their lives will improve once they reach America, she reminds him they’ve been in America for a week. At first, you laugh, and then wince. Sid’s reaction, rising out of bed and looking in wonder at a bustling New York street, adds to the bittersweet mood because a Hotel Chelsea sign is visible in the background.
During the movie’s most hauntingly symbolic sequence, Sid and Nancy stand kissing in an alley as garbage rains down in slow motion around them.
A Dumpster never seemed so romantic and the couple never seemed so young and in love.