Music movies rarely capture the joy of a live gig, but “Good Vibrations” delivers that feeling. This offbeat tale of Northern Irish punk has guts and style.
The songs themselves – few but “Teenage Kicks” ever touched my playlist – make you bounce around. Whether you were there for the birth of punk or you just like some of the tunes, you’ll enjoy this unusual film.
It manages to capture the time of the Troubles with great success, while keeping its emphasis on a music-obsessed character called Terri Hooley, played with aplomb by Richard Dormer. Hooley opens a record shop called Good Vibrations in Belfast and the shop becomes the centre of a the new punk scene, as the 1970s become the 1980s.
Hooley is very much alive and real and wrote an autobiography called “Hooleygan”, on which this film is based. Sadly, the record shop is now closed.
Jodie Whittaker plays his long-suffering wife, Ruth. The clothes and hair look almost perfect, although hair products used here are rather more advanced than those available in the 1970s.
Those playing John Peel, who said the Undertones “Kicks” was his favourite single ever and Siouxsie Sioux are just plain wrong to look at, but they capture the mannerisms well enough.
Dylan Moran and Adrian Dunbar are present, but wasted in tiny roles.
And the last third of the film has a slower pace as if too many strands need to be pulled together at once.
Still, just capturing the feel of live music on film is rare indeed. The audience at the Stratford Picturehouse varied in age from very young to very old, but all enjoyed it a great deal.
As a rather sad afterword, the real Terri Hooley was attacked in October 2012 and called a “Fenian lover” and a “disgrace to Protestants” by those who hit him.
Northern Ireland’s religious antagonisms linger on, but the joy the man brought to many is alive in “Good Vibrations”. I will be seeking out many of the bands that I never heard of before. Thank you for existing, Terri Hooley.