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The Quiet One (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jun 21, 2022

The Quiet One


Featuring Bill Wyman, Suzanne Acosta Wyman, Charlie Watts, Eric Clapton, Andrew Loog Oldham, Tony Chapman, Glyn Johns, Buddy Guy, Mary Wilson, Bob Geldof, Gered Mankowitz, Terry O’Neill and archival footage of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Ian Stewart, Mick Taylor, Ron Wood, Ed Rudy, Frank Mead and Dick Cavett.

Written by Oliver Murray.

Directed by Oliver Murray.

Distributed by IFC Films. 98 minutes. Not Rated.

As pointed out in an early interview showed here, Bill Wyman was “The silent Stone.” In a band with such big personalities as Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, the late Brian Jones, even Charlie Watts, Wyman sort of faded into the background a bit. He was rather inscrutable. He came in, did his job, wasn’t flashy, but was a signature aspect in their sound for decades.

Beyond being a groundbreaking bassist, The Quiet One shows Wyman to be an obsessive collector – if he weren’t rich and famous some people might call him a hoarder. For this film the 82-year-old retired musician opens his archives up for the first time, showing off rare film footage, photos, and mementos from his life and career.

Always the oldest (and the most mature) of his bandmates, he became something of a de facto historian for the band. This may also have had something to do with the fact that he was the only one who was completely sober and drug free, as Keith Richards impishly implied in some old interview footage here.

Though he left the band over 25 years ago in 1993 (he did return for guest appearances at a few shows in 2012), he has an encyclopedic memory of what happened in the glory days – and the evidence to back his memories up.

However, as the one clean and sober member of the Stones, Wyman’s memories are mostly about the music. If that’s what you’re looking for, then The Quiet One is very interesting. If you are looking for a down and dirty look at life in The Rolling Stones, perhaps you should look elsewhere.

The interview footage of Wyman is mostly shot from weird angles; the camera pointed at the back of his head, longshots from across the room, or with an obstructed view. Only late in the film do you see Wyman speaking straight to the camera, and even then, he has his wife Suzanne Acosta sitting with him for emotional support.

This kind of detachment echoes in the interviews in general. Wyman tells his story and often tells it well, but it feels almost like a recitation. He doesn’t dig too deeply into things – the thorny group dynamics, drug usage in the band, the death of Brian Jones, his childhood in the war, his complicated relationship with his father – all are discussed, but none are really scrutinized in depth.

Instead we are sometimes treated to trivialities like a good five minutes discussing his long-forgotten, dated-sounding solo single “(Si Si) Je Suis Un Rock Star.” Although there is some fun irony in seeing Wyman – a member of arguably one of the greatest bands ever – wearing a Duran Duran concert t-shirt in the archival footage of making that song. And I’m saying that as a huge fan of Duran Duran.

The only time he totally opens himself up and allows himself to get emotional is when he is remembering an encounter he had, meeting his idol Ray Charles at one of the singer’s later concerts. Charles had asked Wyman to play on his next album. “I chickened out,” Wyman admits, choked up. “I said I’m not good enough.”

He does also show discomfort and regret discussing the experience of playing with the Stones during the violence and death at the infamous concert at the Altamonte Motor Speedway. He acknowledges it was probably one of the defining moments contributing to the end of the 60s peace-and-love culture.

You can’t help but wish that filmmaker Oliver Murray could have captured that kind of candid insight and self-awareness more often from Wyman in the documentary. It would be nice if Wyman would have been willing to open himself up like that on more subjects.

As a photographer pointed out here, Bill Wyman doesn’t smile much, but when he does it is like a transformation – the smile spreads over his entire face and takes over his whole being.

“The quiet one” is a little shy about letting people see the real man behind the mask. Thus, his movie, while fascinating and worth seeing, has a bit of the same chilly distance. It’s an intellectual journey more than an emotional one. Bill Wyman’s life is a story that is well worth telling, I just wish we got a deeper look into what makes him tick.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2019 All rights reserved. Posted: July 5, 2019.

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