Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

A year later, a second viewing, Good Vibrations still inspires

Richard Dormer and Michael Colgan in Good Vibrations
Richard Dormer and Michael Colgan in Good Vibrations

Has it really been a year since this hack first reviewed Good Vibrations for this very paper and delivered a demi-constellation of stars (well, five, if you're counting) in his verdict?

And has it really been a full 12 months since the big glitzy screening at the Ulster Hall, where this biopic of the high life and fast times of Terri Hooley was given a standing ovation by every minor celebrity, media bigwig and hanger-on?

The answer is, of course, yes stupid – being it's a year later and all. In that time, more venerable reviewers like Mark Kermode have garlanded this home- grown gem with enough praise and plaudits to revivify a small battalion of fragile egomaniacs.

Now, finally on general release, not only is Good Vibrations one of the better recent music biopics in an increasingly crowded genre, it's also one of the most beautifully-realised movies to emerge from Norn Iron since we started making like we had a film industry.

"Based on the true story of Terri Hooley" is a great place to start any tall tale and the great man's often leisurely grip on the nitty gritty of real-life events is a huge part of the film's charm.

We all know the narrative of Belfast punk and Teenage Kicks, but the beauty of the movie is that it doesn't bother to interrogate that narrative to glean what really happened.

Instead it beautifully renders the nightmareland of 1970s Belfast, and drops this fantastical character slap bang in the centre of a world of "p***** with guns", sta-prest slacks and glass milk bottles.

Richard Dormer as Terri Hooley is the bright, mesmeric fulcrum of all that is good about Good Vibrations. He captures an affable mania, and the lisping, glinting charisma of a man with a singular mission.

What still surprises about Good Vibrations after a year is just how this film of bloody social discord, failing marriage, financial suicide and mostly dodgy punk music manages to be at least as uplifting as a steroid-laden weightlifter in a push-up bra.

There's nothing quite like a rousing tale of a man with a vision whose learning curve throughout the movie amounts to a beautifully straight line.

As that other great boozy bon viveur, Peter Cook, once quipped: "I have learned from my mistakes, and feel confident that I could repeat them exactly", or as Hooley says more succinctly in Good Vibes: "Up yer h**e, EMI."

A fittingly brief, funny and joyous precis of a film that, one year on, still truly madly lives up to its name.

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