Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Party Monster (Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, 2003)

Mixing fabulousness with murder is always a risky endeavor. Yet that's the challenge the mildly entertaining Party Monster has to contend with on a regular basis, as it celebrates hedonism while scolding it at the same time. A disco pulsating enterprise that technically should be my favourite movie all-time, the Fenton Baily-Randy Barbato directed muckle is too blemished for me to love unequivocally. No, my adoration comes with reservations. Which is rare, because when I take a liking to something, I usually go all out or not at all. However, the fact that the dead are people are real kinda put a damper on the self-indulgent thrill ride my inner tight trouser wearer was looking to freebase on. The biographical film, based on the book, Disco Bloodbath by James St. James (the self-described "original club kid"), tells the story of a group of extroverted club goers who became moderately famous for their extravagant clothing and drug-fueled antics in Manhattan during the late '80s-early '90s, and of how their self-appointed leader, the loathsome Michael Alig (Macaulay Culkin), ended up killing a drug dealer/hanger on named Angel Melendez (Wilson Cruz). Anointing himself the new Andy Warhola after the famed Ruthenian dies, the brattish Alig quickly moves up the city's social food chain by utilizing the advice given to him by the more even-tempered James St. James (Seth Green) and sucking up to the Canadian born owner of the Limelight, a New York City nightclub renowned for its cutting edge music and drug scene.

Incompetent in terms of basic storytelling and severely lacking when it came to maintaining a cohesive structure, the film relies solely on its music and costumes in order to propel it towards the finish line. Actually, it also depended on these fluky little scenes that somehow managed to perk up the proceedings. The doughnut shop encounter where club kid extraordinaire James St. James begrudgingly teaches neophyte wannabe Michael Alig how to be fabulous, for example, was a delightful nugget of a scene that sort of just creeps up on you and reminds us that great things can be learned at doughnut shops.

A delightfully mishmash of old school new wave sounds and new school house and electro grooves, the Party Monster soundtrack is one of the most exhilarating I've heard spring forth from the sound system of a modern movie. Every track is used perfectly. Whether it be "Go" by Tones on Tail or Waldorf's "You're My Disco," the thumping nature of the songs heard throughout the film numbed much of the horribleness that was washing over my eyeballs. Besides, I can't stay mad at a film that depicts the music of Stacey Q as some sort of sonic solution that can miraculously resolve the world's problems simply through the act of listening to it.

Giving one of the most annoying performances in the history of cinema, Macaulay Culkin takes a character that is already obnoxious to begin with it, and somehow manages to increase his obnoxiousness to an almost astronomical level. The third quarter addition of a leggy Chloë Sevigny to his side did alleviate a small portion of my vexation towards him. But by then it was too late, the damage had already been done.

Luckily, Seth Green is on board to show everyone how to act flamboyant without irritating the audience. Playful when it came to dolling out quips ("I'm not addicted to drugs, I'm addicted to glamour."), and a real trooper in the outrageous costume department (I adored his bloody bride ensemble), the smallish actor strikes a fabulous pose as the fabulous James St. James, the reluctant sidekick in Michael Alig's sick and twisted buddy movie. His DJ advice to a wooden Wilmer Valderrama, the drinking pee face made to the strains of Stephen Duffy, zany haircuts, Stacey Q dancing, and overall impishness was joy to immerse oneself in. It's a shame the film couldn't have been solely about Seth's James, and featured more Mia Kirshner, and hell, found away to add the saucy Lisa Edelstein (a real life club kid back in the day) to the wacky blend. Now that would have been a great film.

video uploaded by lcscury


  1. Having been to the Limelight (quite underage, quite illegaly), I've got to say that this movie made it look way--WAY--sexier than it really was. Sort of a John Paul Gaultier collection as photographed by David LaChapelle (only with a significant percentage more faded child stars). The reality was significantly less well-groomed, from what I can remember ;)

    Word verification: dronista. A woman who drones on and on and on about her so-called sophistication. Oh wait--HEY! That's downright apropos, innit?!

  2. I have always been up in the air on this one. I forgot about Seth Green, so I'll have to look for it to rent.

    I really find it hard to like Kulkin. He was not so bad in "Saved!" but was hardly the centerpiece. Any movie with Mandy Moore screaming "how dare you question my faith" prior to throwing her bible at someone is a friend of mine.

    Sorry I have not been around much. I see all these great movies your doing in my reader, but time has not permitted.

  3. Tenebrous Kate: Way--WAY--sexier than it really was be damned, I'm still envious of you for having breached the gates of, what was at time, nightclub nirvana.

    I remember a couple of clubs in my town trying to mimic the Limelight experience back when I was a wide-eyed disco fiend.

    Quirky fun-fact: The former owner of the Limelight, Peter Gatien, now runs a massive club in Toronto called 'Circa.'

    Darius: Unless you're a huge Seth Green fan, I would stay up in the air. The film is kind of annoying.

    Eva Amurri was hot in Saved!

    No sweat, man. Oh, and you have my sympathies in regard to your recent Photobucket problems.

  4. Don't quote me on this, but when I was in NYC in 1992, The Farm was performing at the Limelight. I think we underagers didn't think we'd get in. Reading the comment above makes me think that may not have been the case. ;) Also, my memory is fuzzy, so I might be imagining this entire scenario, but it sounds good.

  5. The Farm are featured heavily in the 1990 issue of The Face I pathetically still have for some reason.

    Paul Rudd was on Craig Ferguson's show talking about his son's obsession with Live Aid, Ultravox and Midge Ure a couple of days ago. Link

    The Live Aid talk starts around 1:50.

  6. Oh, and Jim Cuddy's hockey team made up of fellow musicians, in a stunning upset, defeated a team of former NHL stars in something called the "Juno Cup."

  7. The Juno Cup, huh? Well, as long as Ellen Page wasn't involved. ;)

    Holy crap, Paul Rudd has the coolest kid ever!!! Thanks for sharing that. Maybe he'll take his kid to the Spandau Ballet reunion tour!

  8. Paul Rudd mentioned Spandau Ballet on Ellen as well. Link

    The band-related "Last Word" starts at around 2:10.