Film Review: “Good Vibrations”

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Good Vibrations, 2012

★★★☆☆

Welcome to the review I’ve been putting off writing for ages. Not for any specific reason, just ‘cause I’m that lazy.

I saw this a couple of weeks ago and it was just unbelievable. Incredibly inspiring, sweet, sometimes annoying because the protagonist is that sort of nice anti-hero who fucks up more often than not, and funny. It’s got Dylan Moran as an Northern Irish pub owner, which is kind of brilliant, because I saw this movie just a few weeks after I saw Dylan Moran on the street. Pretty great, yeah. Moving on, now.

We all have our punk phases, right? I’m sure we do, especially the demographic of this blogging platform, I know that you most likely had a period of your life where you listened to the Buzzcocks and Sex Pistols and The Clash, it’s fine. Happens to all of us. This movie is about the birth of punk in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, it comments on how young people used music to get together, form a community separate from the war and religious differences, on how they were seen by society and how they responded to what happened around them. I personally think that they understood punk. Their music was amazing because it was true. It had meaning, proper meaning. They were fighting against something, you know? The main band of the movie, Rudi (who never managed to sign a label deal and you wouldn’t believe how hard it is to find one of their albums), is an amazing band and their lyrics really spoke about what was happening to them. Yeah, sure, they were a bit juvenile, but that’s because they were really young, going through the motions, always fearing for their lives – you’d be like that, too.

They also showed The Undertones, who actually became pretty famous after their first single, Teenage Kicks, and were on the BBC and had their song played on the radio by John Peel. I even have one of their vinyls – great stuff.

So, yeah, this is basically about the music, but it all revolves around this record shop, Good Vibrations, and its owner, Terri Hooley, who was important in the music business in the 70s-80s, though in a sort of underground way. Sadly, because he was more than a bit awesome. And he only had one eye. One. Eye.

Hooley was played by Richard Dormer (you may know him from Game of Thrones, playing Beric Dondarrion), who is so adorably jolly, his eyes gleaming with happiness whenever he hears music playing, everything about him screaming happiness-music-joy-love-peace, and you just want the war to be over because you need to join him in his sitting room to listen to records and smoke a joint (he was really big on Reggae, Mr Hooley). In fact, all the acting in this film was lovely. These were people living in the midst of a civil war, deaths and bombs all around them (The Troubles were a real tough time in Ireland – if you want to grasp a bit more of the life of an Irish man at those times, I recommend Cal, the movie features Helen Mirren, but the book is better), but they still managed to be happy just because of music. Sure, there were tough times, because of the money problems, and some youths wanting to attack the shop, but all in all, the music made them better.

This is what I got from this movie. Sure, I could talk about the lighting and directing and sound, but what is most important about this is a reflection of how music affects us now, and it’s so much different than then. Now everything is open and out in the air. If you want to form a punk band, no-one’s gonna stop you, and if you’re good enough, you’ll end up on MTV or 4Music. BBC Radio 1 will welcome you with open arms if you’re popular with the cool kids, if your music is about love and girls and cars and money and getting things, giving things, being things. This freedom, I think, had somewhat damaged the power the music has to change us, how we think, to affect us. You don’t have these groups of punks who were actually fighting for something – you have now these groups of punks who were studded bands on their wrists, army boots, write the anarchy symbol on their backpacks and think they’re fighting the system as they text each other using the iPhones their parents bought them. I’m not saying it’s bad, it’s just different, less meaningful in a way, a way that people from my generation don’t really understand (neither do I, which is sad). We don’t know what it’s like to actually fight for something, to put proper effort into actually going against what affects us. At least most of us don’t, and it shows how the world’s changed. Not necessarily for worse or better, just changed. We’re much more apathetic now.

So, if you want to listen to amazing music, see some awfully good acting and be moved to your very core, go watch Good Vibrations on an independent cinema near you.

review by Mariana Duarte

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