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Party Monster

Party Monster is a pointless movie about pointless people that is sure to be embraced by self-alienated teenagers the world over. The acting is stilted, the script is a mess, and the direction is bad. Still it's bound to get a lot of attention for focusing on a subculture and starring a "grownup" child star.

The picture is a remake of sorts by homo-kitsch filmmakers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato. They've already told this story in their documentary of the same title, but this time it's open to poetic license and stunningly lame performances. The story is basically Scarface with 80's New York clublife substituted for Miami gangstering. Michael Alig (Macaulay Culkin) comes to the Big Apple from the Midwest and takes over the club kid scene with James St. James (Seth Green) and its decadence leads to murder and Michael's downfall.

Culkin tries to play Alig as a heap of affectations but the performance itself comes off as an affectation of its own. He and Green exchange dialogue like a couple of high school freshmen doing a cold reading. It's flat, the timing is wrong, and worst of all it's grating as all get out. If you're one of those people that is waiting for Green to break through with his rumored talent you can just keep waiting. Green's St. James plays like a bad Kevin McDonald character doing a bad Andy Dick impression.

Surely more than a few will claim that Culkin and Green's somnambulism is an artistic choice that further exposes the shallow nature of the club kid lifestyle. This is just the same justification that many use on pictures like Showgirls and Starship Troopers that the filmmakers were knowingly making a bad pictures and that the weakness of the scripts and performances is all intentional. While some awful films are self-consciously wretched - Troma Pictures for instance - the clues are there that it's all a goof.

With Party Monster the clue that it's not all a goof is Dylan McDermott as a club owner. McDermott brings that natural, sincere movie star quality that is just a notch below George Clooney. Even in a black turtleneck and an eye patch McDermott oozes authenticity. Had he seemed even for a moment to attempt to put on airs some of it might have worked. It would have still sucked; it would just prove that the sucking came from a poor artistic choice and not just from rank amateurism.

Rank and amateur are Party Monster's two defining characteristics. Poorly shot on digital without any apparent knowledge of such artistic affectations as white balance or composition, the whole thing plays like a senior video project desperately shot over a weekend. Interiors, skin tones especially, skew orange. When you have as much skin tone has this picture has between Culkin's pasty thighs in cut-offs and an endless supply of shots of people's noses and upper lips after snorting various powders, getting them to look right should be of at least slight importance.

Again, even this could be forgiven had the script been there to save it. Hell, 28 Day Later had the story to overcome bad digital handheld, but there is nothing to these characters. They don't DO anything; they just ARE, as they proclaim more than a few times. They find themselves horribly cute, as do the filmmakers.

The filmmakers also find themselves horribly cute, having their characters argue over who is telling the story and hear their own background music, but then they undermine all of this self-referential silliness by having St. James telling the story to the cameras in shots that I can only assume recreate the Party Monster documentary.

They spend all of their time proving to us how shallow these two characters are and then have one of them be the storyteller. I'm sure it's all very droll for those involved and they can laugh up their sleeves about all the little things that they put in - "Look we got John Stamos to be a cheesy talk show host!" "Isn't Marilyn Manson hilarious in a dress?" - but they don't give anyone outside of their clique a reason to care.

Even aesthetically the picture fails. All of these characters are just about their personas and their style, but the picture lacks any style. As shallow and stupid as all of the characters come off, they are at least interesting at first glance. They are somewhat different, but the picture itself is not. When Alig pines away for his lost love he lies on the floor listening to "Total Eclipse of the Heart," a retro-gag only slightly less played out than playing Sir Mix-a-lot in a party scene or busting the joke of making a joke sequel by adding 2: Electric Boogaloo to the end of any title.

Party Monster is hollow. Without any real redeeming factor at all the picture is just lifeless, acloying whine for attention that wouldn't exist if its star hadn't dropped a paint can on Joe Pesci's head over a decade ago. Heck, at least Dickie Roberts doesn't put on any airs about exploiting failed child stars.


Jordan Rosa

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