Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Good Vibrations review

It's no secret that John Peel's, the legendary Radio 1 DJ, favourite song was "Teenage Kicks" by The Undertones, and that when he first played it, he loved it so much he played it again (something unheard of when it comes to radio). The song is phenomenal, pure ecstasy, and so it is kind of shocking to see Terri Hooley, the subject of Good Vibrations, breaking down as he can't sell the song to a London record label. The Undertones aren't nihilists, they're too ugly, not political, too Irish; not what the Londoners expect out of conflicted Northern Island. But the moment John Peel plays that record we feel the elation, along with Hooley and his wife, the moment music not only makes his life better, but everyones life better.

The Troubles is a hard thing to comprehend. The bombings, the fighting's, assassinations, the "disappeared". (There's a pretty good documentary called The Art of Conflict on Netflix, which tells the story of the Troubles through the prism of their famous murals, narrated by Vince Vaughn, if you are unfamiliar with the history.) Good Vibrations makes a good effort to show you how bad things got around Hooley. The details are numerous and blend seamlessly into the storytelling. One particularly harrowing scene shows vintage footage of the Miami showband massacre, and Hooley himself the victim of an attempted kidnapping.

The struggles of the time explain why Hooley does what he does; he doesn't protest with violence, he protests with punk. The moment he hears unsigned band Rudi is a revelation to him, finally his movement has arrived. And it wasn't easy being a punk in Ireland. His ambition to record this Irish punk music is ambitious and hard, but leaves you gratified that someone attempted to bring fun at a time when it seemed impossible. "New York may have the haircuts, and London it's trousers, but Belfast is the only place with a real reason for punk".

Richard Doormer is excellent as Hooley, encompassing his electricity as well as his flaws. The only character that seems chronically underwritten is Hooley's wife Ruth, played by Jodie Whittaker. She is at turns a free wheeling, slightly hippy dancing girl that inspires Hooley, but quickly becomes the housewife, left to suffer while Hooley puts the house up as collateral and goes on impromptu tours. This may of been the case, but I feel she could of been more strongly written.

Of course, the soundtrack is incredible. Not only have you got Hank Williams and the Shangri-La's, but you've also got all those amazing punk bands. The directing is spot on, letting you feel included as a member of the audience. The found footage (this is a BBC funded film...) not only presents the atrocities that happens at the time, but gives you slightly oppressive feeling that they must of felt back in 70's Northern Ireland, where their lives was the news.

Good Vibrations
is a affirming film. Punk may seem frivolous, like most music, but like most music, it is those few minutes of aural intensity that give reason to live beyond the politics and struggles.



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