This is a cracking film. Good Vibrations tells the bizarre but largely true story of Terri Hooley. Terri (who strikes me as someone that should be more of a legend than he is) ran a record shop (Good Vibrations of the title) in Great Victoria Street in Belfast. Not that extraordinary, except that this was through the very depths of ‘the troubles’, with Great Victoria Street being the most bombed street in Europe.
Hooley, one-eyed and assuming a religiously neutral, CND-supporting position, skirts trouble from all sides. He buys a fragile truce with Loyalists and Republicans (a great scene) by dishing out LPs from his DJ collection (I’m sure I saw Sheena Easton’s “You Could Have Been With Me” album as one of them, which is both funny and embarrassing!). From a folk background, he ‘discovered’ punk music while listening to a concert by Rudi and the Outcasts in a bar (another joyous scene – see below) and proceeded to start his own record label to send the ‘Belfast message’ to the world (or at least Great Britain).
But his main claim to fame was in ‘discovering’ The Undertones and getting their iconic hit Teenage Kicks to the attention of John Peel, and then the world. As a husband and a businessman, he was (and probably is if the film portrays him accurately) clearly a disaster, snatching defeat from the very jaws of victory at every opportunity. In this sense the film is highly frustrating: for someone of such drive, energy and bravado, you just want him to succeed more.
Richard Dormer holds the film together brilliantly as Hooley, with good supporting parts by Jodie Whittaker and comic Dylan Moran. Karl Johnson (The Illusionist, Hot Fuzz) is also particularly effective as Hooley’s staunchly socialist father, rabidly disapproving of his son’s commercial leanings.
But it is the dynamism of the music that really drives this film along, together with the historical backdrop that makes me really (REALLY) glad that I work in Belfast in the 2010’s rather than the 1970’s. This film is a real tribute to the people of Belfast that they were able to lock all of that pain and angst away in a box and (largely) hammer the lid shut. Long may it continue that way. As a film jointly financed by the BBC, the Irish Film Board and the Northern Irish Film Board, it also nicely highlights the anarchic nature of the Belfast sense of humour. Often black, but never dull. One word of caution: my ear (in working for a Belfast based company) is well tuned to the accent, but I suspect many of the audience will struggle to pick up some of the dialogue.
As a final piece of trivia, they got such a large crowd of extras dressed in punk fashion to the final concert by promising a free acoustic concert by Snow Patrol – who also have their origins in Belfast – some of whose members were acting as exec producers!
Fad Rating: FFFF