Good Vibrations: This ain’t The Beach Boys
by Laurence Boyce
12/07/2012 - With music biopics littering the cinematic landscape, it might seem difficult for some to stand out from the crowd. But – in telling the true story of an influential record shop and label at the height of The Troubles in Northern Ireland - Lisa Barros D'Sa and Glenn Leyburn’s Good Vibrations [trailer, festival scope] has managed to add an extra layer of pathos to the traditional ‘rise to stardom’ story. Certainly, its mixture of crowd pleasing and serious political comment has made the British/Irish co-production a perfect opening film at the likes of Karlovy and Belfast.
Terry Hooley (Richard Dormer) is a music-loving socialist who enjoys reggae, a pint and a spliff. When the violence in 1970s Northern Ireland explodes, Hooley is unconcerned with aligning himself with either Protestants or Catholics, earning him the enmity of many people that he once called friends. Instead, he wants to open a record shop and sell people his favourite records. With a loan, and his willingness to open his shop in Belfast’s most bombed street, Hooley does just that. But when he discovers punk, Hooley moves into promotion. Soon he’s courting the most famous record companies in the world but his lack of financial prowess, coupled with a fondness for drink and drugs, threatens to estrange him from his family and friends.
Moving from moments of realism to fourth-wall breaking flights of fancy (such as Hooley’s traipsing around London meeting record execs portrayed as a drug-fuelled music video) it’s all very reminiscent of 24 Hour Party People (2002) (made even less surprising when you consider it was exec produced by Michael Winterbottom). Sometimes, the tonal shifts between the whimsical and the deadly serious are a little too disconcerting, but it just about manages to strike the balance well. The performances are good, with Dormer making for an engaging and sympathetic lead and Jodie Whitaker giving fine support as his wife. Of course, there’s a great soundtrack, and music obsessives should enjoy seeing the likes of The Buzzcocks and John Peel represented on screen.
Its high level of festival exposure already should mean many more screenings in the future while – with the film already picked up in the UK by The Works – a healthy theatrical run is also on the cards.