Danny Garcia continues telling the history of the punks in his important, shaggy documentaries, works which might illuminate viewers on the real story behind their t-shirt heroes, or which might make viewers feel: warm, fuzzy, old, conservative, loose, irritated, or invigorated. Maybe even all of the above. Music fans of a certain bent might find this DVD inevitable, or at the very least a bonafide rental.
The titular vacation refers a little bit to a song by notorious New York junkie Johnny Thunders, and to the lightning-fast rise and fall of Sid Vicious, former scenester, one-time bass player for the Pistols, and lovesick idiot brought to ground by Nancy Spungen, the famous climber. It's a sad story, no matter how you look at it, and one already told to expert effect by Alex Cox in Sid & Nancy. (Devotees of that film, of which I am one, will find in this documentary a healthy dose of deja vu, as Sad Vacation demonstrates just how slavishly Cox and Gary Oldman recreated what footage of the real Sid Vicious that exists.)
The doc starts in harrowing fashion as it details through recreation, archival footage, and photos, Spungen's lowly death. Thence, the usual treatment unspools, telling of Sid's early days and time with the Pistols, and especially his entanglement with Nancy, laid out with more archival footage, snaps, and plenty of interviews with scenesters, artists and musicians of the day. The movie culminates with a lengthy look at the death, or murder, as if Garcia were directing a true crime story. It's riveting stuff, with unanswerable questions.
However you believe Spungen died, murder, suicide pact gone wrong, or more nefarious conspiracy, you can't help but to be sucked in by the stories of those who were there. Viewers who've seen Garcia's previous movies will recognize the list, from charming Steve "Roadent" Connolly to Leee Black Childers, Neon Leon, Sylvain Sylvain, Honest John Plain, Roberta Bayley, Donna Destri, and many more. As with Garcia's other documentaries, the budget doesn't exactly allow for lots of Sex Pistols music in the background, relying mostly on snippets of similar punk, much of which is really good, but which puts things at a slight remove.
Sad Vacation: The Last Days of Sid And Nancy represents a fantastic, shaggy documentary re-telling of the saga of Sid and Nancy. Longtime punks may even find a new outlook on the story, some new images they'd never seen, or footage, or newfound appreciation for the biggest flash-in-the-pan ever. Garcia collects the usual suspects for great, trenchant opinions and stories, assembling everything in a hybrid music/crime documentary that will leave you wanting to tear a hole in your t-shirt. Recommended for fans.