Party Monster (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner01/09/2003

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 99 mins

Flamboyant, funny and frustrating in equal measure, this is part twisted buddy movie, part black comedy and part true-life horror story - worth seeing for Seth Green’s performance.

Party Monster directors Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey previously had a Sundance hit with a documentary under the same title, about the rise to fame of ‘Club Kid’ Michael Alig and his eventual incarceration for the murder of his drug-dealer.

They then persuaded one of the documentary’s participants, James St. James, to write a book about the real-live events and the resulting novel, Disco Bloodbath, is the basis for this film, a narrative feature version of the same tale.

Parties, Parties, Parties

Macauley Culkin, in his first feature film role in nine years, plays Michael Alig, a precocious, pretentious wannabe on the New York club scene, who latches onto ‘Club Kid’ James St. James (Seth Green). The film shows Michael’s ascent to prominence as a party promoter, eventually eclipsing James before spiralling deeper and deeper into drugs and, eventually, murdering his drug dealer, Angel (Wilson Cruz). (Supposedly, the murder was only discovered because Michael went around telling everybody about it. D’oh!).

The film is quite messy and chaotic in places, which, oddly, seems to add to the general atmosphere, particularly when Michael and James are squabbling over just whose ‘movie’ this is anyway. It’s also quite stagey, which works well when detailing the club scenes (which have their own theatricality) but less so in the dramatic scenes. Still, Bailey and Barbato have clearly gone to great lengths to recreate the early 90’s club scene – it’s worth seeing the film for the outrageous costumes alone (some of which belonged to St. James).

Cracking Soundtrack, Great Supporting Cast

Culkin’s performance is somewhat controversial, since it is superficial, over the top and heavily mannered. Arguably, this is exactly what Michael was like, particularly in contrast with Seth Green’s astonishing performance as St. James – he’s remarkably relaxed and comfortable and he makes it all seem so easy, as opposed to Michael, who was constantly trying to BE James. Ultimately, your enjoyment of the film will probably come down to just how much you buy into Culkin’s performance, but there are some great scenes along the way.

Apart from a great soundtrack, the film also has a strong supporting cast, including Chloe Sevigny (who was part of the scene and knew both Michael and James), Natasha Lyonne (unrecogniseable as Brooke), Wilmer Valderrama (from That 70s Show) as Michael’s boyfriend Keoki, Dylan McDermott (as club owner Peter Gatien) and Mia Kershner (better known as the Parachuting Lesbian Assassin from TV’s 24) as his wife.

To sum up, Party Monster tells an intriguing story and is frequently very funny, but it also has its annoying moments and will severely test your tolerance for young Hollywood actors camping it up and shrieking a lot. Worth seeing though.

Film Trailer

Party Monster (18)
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Content updated: 18/09/2018 14:31

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