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  Good Vibrations The Single Life
Year: 2012
Director: Lisa Barros D'Sa, Glenn Leyburn
Stars: Richard Dormer, Jodie Whittaker, Liam Cunningham, Dylan Moran, Mark Ryder, Kerr Logan, Andrew Simpson, Karl Johnson, Killian Scott, David Wilmot, Diarmuid Noyes, Adrian Dunbar, Niall Wright, Demetri Goritsas, Ruth McCabe
Genre: Biopic, MusicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Terri Hooley (Richard Dormer) remembers Belfast in the nineteen-sixties as a delightful place full of colour and tunes, even though his father's left-leaning politics and attempts to secure a place as a local politician ended both in failure and with Terri getting an arrow fired into his eye by aggrieved kids. He lost the eye and once the seventies came around he began to lose his friends as The Troubles gripped the land; before that happened his mates had identified themselves as socialists, Communists, anarchists, pacifists, and so on, yet afterwards there were only two types of people you could belong to, Catholics or Protestants. These were grim times of murder, unrest and fear...

So what could Terri, who becomes our hero, do to lighten the burden on his fellow Northern Irish citizens? How about adding a little music to their lives? The power of that art was not to be underestimated in Good Vibrations, the biopic which took its name from the record shop he opened on one of the most notorious and bomb-afflicted streets in the capital, as music as a unifying force for all those who did not wish to resort to violence and bigotry of whichever stripe was the song the movie was singing. Hooley's claim to fame was his discovery of The Undertones, the most famous punk band to emerge from the region aside perhaps from Stiff Little Fingers, and this association was played up in the publicity.

Actually, as it unfolded in the film you would notice that aside from establishing the band as a musical force to be reckoned with Hooley didn't play much of a part in their lives, with the recording of Teenage Kicks and its effect on all the characters' lives taking up about twenty minutes of screen time. In fact, the band who stuck by Hooley (or did he stick by them?) was Rudi and the Outcasts, a considerably more obscure band whose big shot at glory we are told here was scuppered when he didn't press any copies of the single they were promoting on television, which not so much implies as outright states he wasn't exactly the most capable manager, and his methods left a lot to be desired.

On the other hand, his passion for the music was never in doubt as directors Lisa Barros D'Sa and Glenn Leyburn traced Hooley's journey from a DJ playing to two punters in a quiet bar to putting on a huge punk show which will save his shop, illustrating how important he was to shaping the tastes of a generation. Although he is threatened by aggressive attention from both the terrorists and the police, neither of which he has any time for, Hooley's worst enemy would appear to be himself, which fashions an interesting and complex man when the alternative could have been a starry-eyed hagiography, except the context was so serious you doubt the filmmakers could have got away with that.

Good Vibrations' concept of the period was at times lacking, simply because they were contrasted against the newsreel footage which made us see what the place really looked like, and how some of the worst wigs the creative team could apparently find were not going to be wholly convincing; it also had that televisual mood to it, not perhaps surprising when it was a co-production with the BBC (who at least were able to supply that footage and more). Jodie Whitaker played Mrs Hooley, a somewhat thankless role when she has to act as the haranguing voice of reason as her husband's schemes get out of hand, but the movie's strength was that it had something to say about the value of pure entertainment and generous good humour in the face of a society telling you to shut up and put up with an atmosphere of ashen-faced repression. Not that those trying against the odds to have a good time don't suffer, but the film endorses them, telling us they were not wrong, and Dormer's powerful, charismatic performance was key to that. David Holmes took care of the music, along with co-producing.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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