Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Good Vibrations: Critics are bowled over by Belfast's feel-good punk movie smash

Richard Dormer as Terri Hooley in Good Vibrations
Richard Dormer as Terri Hooley in Good Vibrations

Good Vibrations has opened to rave reviews across the UK – garnering a host of five-star plaudits.

Cinemas showing the feel-good biopic of punk music legend Terri Hooley's life have been pulling in audiences picking up on word of mouth.

The Belfast-made film – which had its cinema release on Saturday – has been roundly praised by film critics in the The Independent, The Guardian and The Irish Times, amongst others.

And there have been accolades from celebrity backers such as actor James Corden, Tim Wheeler, frontman of Northern Irish band Ash, local singer/songwriter Soak and Michael Bradley, bassist for The Undertones.

"Just four minutes in, you already know you are in expert hands," said the five-star Sunday Times Culture review.

The low budget film reconstructs the violence during the Troubles through the career of Hooley, who opened a shop called Good Vibrations on Great Victoria Street when it was the most bombed half-mile in Europe.

The 'Godfather of Ulster Punk' also set up a record label of the same name and released the classic Undertones hit Teenage Kicks.

The breakthrough moment for the label was when Radio One DJ John Peel played the iconic tune on his BBC show twice in a row.

Richard Dormer's portrayal of Northern Ireland's most famous music industry name has gone down well with viewers.

On Sunday, many people chose to enjoy Easter Sunday by watching the highly-acclaimed film in cinemas across the province.

The Movie House on Belfast's Dublin Road and Queen's Film Theatre (QFT) said there was a good turnout for all screenings.

"Easter Sunday is normally quiet but we had 40 people at Good Vibrations," said the Movie House's Mark Brennan.

Joan Davison at QFT said the film was selling well, with more than 100 people having been to see it on Sunday. She added: "It was sold out completely on Saturday and today already looks like it will be another sell-out."

At a recent North American premiere at the South By South West festival, Good Vibrations was singled out as the best film about music and popular culture since Michael Winterbottom's 24 Hour Party People.

The warts-and-all portrait of Hooley as a wayward husband and father useless with money has been championed by Mark Kermode. Reviewing the movie on the BBC, Kermode, one of the UK's best known film critics, said it had made him cry twice.

He added: "It really deserves to find an audience. It's a joy. It's got real heart and soul."

Good Vibrations was also endorsed by US director and former Happy Days star, Ron Howard after a private screening.

Twitter, the social networking site, was ablaze with compliments for the film.

Londondonerry songstress Soak said: "Went to see @goodvibesfilm yesterday. Speechless, hello new favourite movieeee. Oh, happy Easter by the way!"

Funnyman James Corden tweeted: "If you're looking for a film to see tonight, go and see Good Vibrations. It's wonderful x"

Ash's Tim Wheeler wrote: "Good Vibrations movie opens in UK cinemas today. Saw it at SXSW. Best N Irish movie ever!"

Reviews

The Sunday Times

"Though presenting itself as apolitical on the national question, as its protagonist Terri Hooley was himself apolitical in that sense, this is a highly political film. It is the first big movie about Northern Ireland that feels British, due to its lefty political emphasis and immersion in the punk scene, of which London was the capital and DJ John Peel the high priest. The story is carefully unspooled with great visual charm. The vitality of punk culture is harnessed by directors Lisa Barros D'Sa and Glenn Leyburn. The Troubles thrum away in the background, represented by occasional visual and audio montages of dreary and repetitive horror; the familiar and impotent pleadings of families for no reprisals... This feels like the first genuinely post-peace process film from Northern Ireland. The story emerges from the Troubles – and completely transcends them."

Empire Magazine

"The point of Good Vibrations is that it is not simply a movie about one man's rise and fall, but about the other things that Hooley achieved. For one thing, it is a story of hope: Hooley's story plays out against the backdrop of a city torn apart by sectarian violence, but never once do we see him cowed by it. And for another, it is a film about unity, how Hooley's label did what no politician could ever do, giving the city's youth a sense of place and community far beyond the confines of geography and religion. Key to this is Richard Dormer's electric performance as Hooley, a charmer and a rogue who even in this somewhat laudatory version would hardly be a shoo-in for any Husband Of The Year contests. This is a rousing tale of rock 'n' roll rebellion that shows how one man's black-vinyl passions ended up socking it to The Man."

The Guardian

"This biopic of Belfast's godfather of punk is terrific, particularly in its scenes of noisy, pogoing epiphany. Lisa Barros D'Sa and Glenn Leyburn have directed a terrifically warm and entirely lovable movie about Terri Hooley, Belfast's chaotic godfather of punk. In the '70s, Hooley defied the miseries and ugly tribalism of the Troubles by opening a record shop in the middle of the city. This tiny store became his tour promotion HQ, as well as the indie record label that put out the Undertones' Teenage Kicks. It was also the base from which Hooley could cultivate his entrepreneurial genius and messianically insist on a new and non-divisive way of thinking about Northern Ireland and its young people. Richard Dormer gives an excellent performance as Hooley, and the moment when he is first ecstatically converted to punk in the middle of a pogoing crowd is an absolute joy."

The Independent

"Seventies Belfast lacked folk heroes, but this drama argues for the creation of one in the unlikely character of Terri Hooley. As played by Richard Dormer, Terri is a force of nature, a music nut whose passion overrode the sectarianism of the times and put Northern Irish punk on the map. Without his petitioning of John Peel at the BBC, the world might never have got to hear The Undertones and Teenage Kicks. That sense of Belfast as a frustrated outpost – quite apart from being a war zone – comes over keenly in a smart script by Colin Carberry and Glenn Patterson. When Terri's friend tells him he has to go to London, Terri replies: "Don't take it hard. You're still special." As his old-school socialist dad reminds him: "If they can't buy you, they can't own you." It's a heartwarming tale, driven along by a great, raucous medley of punk, rock and reggae."

The Irish Times

"Teenage kicks really are hard to beat. Good Vibrations good-naturedly bounces into cinemas having overcome the same seemingly insurmountable difficulties as the record imprint that lends the film its name. These shores have produced a handful of must-see titles in recent years. None of them – until now – might have been described as happy-go-lucky and feelgood. And none of them – until now – have anything like the punch-the-air, I've-got-something-in-my-eye cheeriness of Good Vibrations. Quite apart from the film's commendably DIY ethos, on its own kinetic terms Good Vibrations is note perfect. And as a reminder of all the songs that should have and could have been monster hits it's a (sorry, wrong genre) stone groove. Never mind the mouthpieces: this one goes out to all the folks who know the true meaning of 'no surrender'. Go early. Go often. Bring the family."

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