Sunday, 1 December 2013
Hooley's story is an inspiring if frustrating one, and in the right hands could have offered an interesting study of one person's commitment to cut through the political divides of his country using music and sheer bloody mindedness (bands on the Good Vibrations label often comprised both Catholics and Protestants). The directors of Good Vibrations unfortunately blow the opportunity with a film which, despite a terrific turn from Richard Dormer as Hooley, is pretty shallow and uninvolving. In fact Dormer's performance feels like it's strayed in from an altogether more serious film, and the decision to centre stage Hooley by rendering the other adult characters sketchy at best is a real problem. The use of real music and news footage blended with recreated band performances takes its cue from Michael Winterbottom's Tony Wilson biopic 24 Hour Party People (2002) although that movie had a lightness of touch which blended history and fiction rather more effectively. Clumsy as Good Vibrations is, I did like the scene where Hooley gets his epiphanic moment hearing 'Teenage Kicks' on the headphones in the studio, while The Undertones look on.
While there are certain similarities between Tony Wilson's and Terri Hooley's just-do-it-and-bugger-the-consequences approach to music promotion and business, Wilson's grasp of semiotics (and arguably more interesting band roster) provides better visual subject matter. A hundred odd minutes in the company of a muttering boozehound who manages to ostracize nearly all his colleagues, set in the gloomy beiges and sepias of 1970s Belfast and without the benefit of a decent script to elevate the proceedings past a few good one liners, makes Good Vibrations, if not a boring watch, an unsatisfying one. And as for the uncredited actor who appears as John Peel towards the end of the film...you should be ashamed, sir.