Movie Review by Neil Ryan
Starring: Macaulay Culkin, Seth Green, Manny Perez, Chloë Sevigny, Natasha Lyonne
Directors: Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato
Club Kids were the habitues of the Nineties nightlife scene in New York; they were flashy, excessive, and gender-defying, but also rather shallow and self-celebrating. Renowned for their outrageous sense of dress and flamboyant themed parties they took their lead from Michael Alig, a narcissistic guru who defined the parameters from which the Club Kid scene evolved. Alig had an inner circle of devotees handpicked from the ranks of his followers, and PARTY MONSTER traces their ascent from penniless wannabes to nationally renowned phenomenon, and the inevitable crash and burn as Alig’s coterie, subsisting in a druggy torpor, slump to their murderous nadir.
PARTY MONSTER is based on the recollections of James St. James, a camp club queen who acted as mentor to Alig when he was newly arrived in Manhattan. James (played by Seth Green) spends the opening scenes narrating to camera whilst Alig (Macaulay Culkin) attempts to wrest the attention of the audience away from him – a not entirely successful exercise in post-modern playfulness that denies the film any initial impetuous. Matters improve once Alig becomes a mover and a shaker on the New York club circuit and the film adopts the tone of dispassionate observer. The emotional detachment works because Alig’s motley collection of preening “look at me” desperates are not conducive to engaging viewer sympathy. Gradually the drugs become more important than the players and PARTY MONSTER (like other recent celebrity deconstruction biopics AUTO FOCUS, CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND, MAN ON THE MOON) breaks down in a final act of suitably fractured narrative and blanched photography.
PARTY MONSTER boasts original and unusual subject matter but, crucially, the interplay between Green and Culkin is not entirely satisfactory: they seem stilted and their dialogue is delivered with an effete and deliberate staginess. This may be an intentional device to reflect the superficial nature of the friendship between these hollow hedonists but it does not work in the film’s favour. Ultimately PARTY MONSTER is interesting rather than moving, admirable rather than likeable.