Andy Serkis did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Bafta, for portraying Ian Dury in Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll.
Andy Serkis is best known for his motion capture performance especially as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings, but he managed to get a Bafta nomination for this strictly live action portrayal. He actually was nominated for the year of 2009 before the film actually had a public release date anywhere. The Bafta voters must have loved his performance to be quite so enthusiastic about it, or maybe they wanted to make up for the fact that they did not nominate him for best supporting actor for the Two Towers in 2002 despite having nominated Eddie Murphy for his voice only portrayal in Shrek in 2001.
Serkis plays Ian Dury who was apparently a famous face in Britain although I must admit I never heard of him before watching this film. Serkis takes on the role in a fashion of really inhabiting the role from Dury's accent, to his polio induced limp, and of course a very certain style. Serkis is completely natural in his portrayal and everything he does to become Dury merely feels like he becomes Dury. Never does his performance feel like that and he makes all his mannerisms all part of his total characterization. Serkis despite tasking himself with taking on the role of this very particular man he never seems like he is just trying to play the part like say Jamie Foxx did in Ray.
I have to give Serkis the utmost credit in his characterization as even though I had no idea who Dury was well watching the film, but Serkis did remind me of someone I saw in a film at one time before. I thought and who came to my mind was the shop keeper in a rather brief scene in the film of Judge Dredd. Well it turns out that shopkeeper was in fact played by Ian Dury. I have to praise Serkis a great deal here as he managed to remind me of Ian Dury through his performance even when I did not even recognize the name. That takes some doing, and it quite a testament to the strength of Serkis's portrayal where he so seamlessly establishes Dury's physical traits.
This particular biopic is quite different that the usual one in that it does not follow the rise to success heavy drug period, than either a comeback or death afterwards. This one follows a different approach kind of jumping around to times of success times of failures, times of warmth and times of heartbreak. It does not exactly sit on a single one for great deal of time, and even when it is focusing on one aspect it might cut to another, or at least a musical performance well doing so. Serkis really has to juggle the different directions the film takes to be able to bring out the emotional power in each of them, and actually he does this all fairly well.
Serkis moves from moment to moment all well and whatever he does always seems fitting for Dury. In the performance scenes Serkis really throws himself into them and has the presence he should. The musical scenes all on their own are very entertaining to watch by the way Serkis delivers in each of these scenes and they never feel repetitive as he does something unique in each one of these scenes. Serkis though does show these to be performances and properly dials down Dury in his personal scenes. He actually stays fairly restrained as Dury in his personal life, and really there is not an arc exactly with his performance. Yes there are ups and downs but the film and Serkis really portray them in a more day to day fashion.
Serkis taking the day to day approach for Dury actually works and he makes him just a normal human being through the way he deals with his own past as well as his present issues. Serkis meets the demands of every situation. In the scenes with Dury's family Serkis is very effective showing a great deal of warmth at times that is quite moving, but as well showing a certain self absorption that creates troubles. Serkis plays it all very realistically and makes all of the complexities of his relationships believable. The same goes in the scenes where he is working with his band. Serkis makes the temper tantrums as well as the moments of genuine creativity all work as the methods of one man.
Serkis's best moments come when Dury's reflects on his past involving his father and his troubles due to contracting polio. Again Serkis mixes the emotions brilliantly as he conveys the pain and sorrow in Dury over these matter, but in equal effectiveness shows the perseverance and strength in the man from his experiences as well. Serkis matches every challenge involved in the film's manner of telling Ian Dury's story quite efficiently. He is able to find the rhythm necessary for the part in terms of both Dury's public and private personality. This is very strong work from Andy Serkis showing that he is a capable actor both when he has the aid of computer graphics as well as in this film where he must stand entirely on his own.