The eccentric man behind some of the biggest bands of the 90s finally gets a biopic. Alan McGee lived a fast-paced life filled with celebrity encounters and drugs-fuelled benders. This bland and muddled film doesn’t do his life justice!
The film is based on McGee‘s 2013 autobiography and adapted for the screen by Dean Cavanagh and Irvine Welsh by actor-turned-director Nick Moran. Danny Boyle is an executive producer, and his and Welsh’s fingerprints are all over.
The film is held together by Mcgee’s (Trainspotting’s Ewen Bremner) colourful, yet crass voice over. It’s an odd way to hold a narrative and not a choice that entirely works. It’s meant to replicate the lead’s erratic and drug-induced thought process, but it means much of the film’s message gets lost. His life may be a muddle, but this film should have been clearer.
For such a ground-breaking and radical human, Creation Stories is a rather run-of-the-mill biopic. It starts with a teenage Alan (played by Leo Flanagan) becoming enthralled with David Bowie, The Sex Pistols, and turning to a life of anarchy. His radical ideologies and punky dress sense cause a fracture with his father (played by Richard Jobson, formerly of The Skids). His cracked relationship with his father is a recurring issue through his life and the film.
McGee soon realises he doesn’t have the talent to make it as a musician but has a knack for discovering and promoting upcoming rock bands. He forms Creation Records with his hapless friends, finally making use of all the time spent in clubs — their first notable signing was Jesus and Mary Chain.
It is around this point that Flanagan is replaced by Bremner, suddenly ageing 30 years in a minute. No amount of ugly 70s wardrobe and orange wig will help Bremner disappear into the role of a 20 something. As charismatic as Bremner is, Flanagan should have continued playing the role for a few more years.
This also the point that Creation Stories starts to lose the plot. McGee becomes addicted to existing in an altered state. As his drug use becomes out of hand, the film starts to become jumpy and muddled. Some ropey VFX shows him flushing his own face down the toilet is just one of the many trips McGee goes on.
The cutting between time periods is convoluted and disorientating. You’re never sure what is the present and what is a flashback. One minute he’s being interviewed by a journalist (played by Suki Waterhouse, one of the few women with a speaking role), the next minute, it’s 1993, and he’s kicking out the bailiffs. There is no pay-off to this heavily used technique. There is also a ridiculous amount of generic stock photos and cutaways to illustrate McGee’s many rants and theories.
Creation Records eventually signs with Sony, which solidifies McGee’s name in the industry. The film then spends far too much time trying to show that McGee is a self-made folk hero who never sold out and always kept his integrity.
Like any good drug-fuelled biopic, there has to be a downfall. Creation Stories is happy to show his downfall, which appears to hit rock bottom during a rowdy evening with Jason Isaac. His recovery and the agoraphobia that replaces his addiction is offensively glossed over and trivialised.
Every rock and roll cliché is hit through Creation Stories. When Primal Scream discover acid, they suddenly are inspired to start sampling bits of film (a nod to their future hit ‘Loaded’), and a junkie loudly declares, “I’m a nihilist, man. There’s nothing to it.”
Creation Stories has life breathed back into it when Oasis appears in a re-creation of the infamous King Tut’s gig in Glasgow. Thanks to spot-on casting (James McClelland as Noel and Leo Harvey-Elledge as Liam), the plot finally has somewhere to go. The talent of the Gallaghers and co only bolsters McGee’s megalomania. Their global recognition and financial success only encourage McGee’s arrogance.
The supporting cast is a who’s who of cool British actors and recognisable bands. Paul Kaye, Jason Isaacs, Jason Flemying, Thomas Turgoose and Danny John-Jules all make appearances but never an impact. All of these caricatures sport ugly clothing and some of the worst wigs seen this side of amateur theatre. The only constant in this unfocused drama is Bremner’s eccentric performance, which appears to rehash much of the neurosis of Trainspotting’s Spud.
The main plot is shoved at the end of Creation Stories. The last act, where McGee becomes involved in politics, is overstuffed with events and characters and subplots. The less said about the Jimmy Saville scenes (played grotesquely by Alistair McGowan), the better. The oversentimental finale, that is accompanied by Wonderwall is sure to make even McGee roll his eyes.
Creation Stories is a paint by number biopic that overuses narration and cheap editing to try to distract viewers. Perhaps the writers are too close to McGee as this film, as it trivialises the ecstasy driven raves and shoves in as many rock and roll anecdotes as it can.
Creation Stories is available on Digital and On-Demand now
by Amelia Harvey
Amelia is a freelance writer, frustrated novelist and occasional wrangling of international students. She is especially interested in LBGTQ culture and 1960s and 70s music. She also writes for Frame Rated, The People’s Movies and Unkempt Magazine, amongst others. Her favourite films include Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, Moulin Rouge and Closer. You can find her on Twitter @MissAmeliaNancy and letterboxd @amelianancy
Categories: Anything and Everything