Party Monster (2003)

"Very Good"

Party Monster (2003) Review


In real life, Michael Alig was a nobody from the Midwest who moved to New York in the 1980s, decided to become absolutely fabulous, and did. He became a nightclub impresario, the "king of the club kids," who reigned over bacchanalian fests with names like "Bloodfeast," did more drugs than a half-dozen Studio 54 habitues, and murdered his dealer, leaving the corpse around his apartment for a few days before hacking it up and dumping the mess into the river. It's nice to see Macauley Culkin working again.

The closest thing to a best friend that Alig had was James St. James (Seth Green), a trust fund kid with pretenses of writing the Great American Novel but who dulled the agony of his writer's block with endless clubbing and drugging. Sauntering about the streets of New York in a collection of designer trash togs, James was the role model for Alig when he first came to town. When Alig started making a name for himself, throwing parties at Limelight for easily-charmed Peter Gatien (Dylan McDermott in a fierce eyepatch), he put together a band of self-created "superstars" decked out in baroque costumes, modeled on Warhol's Factory of people who were famous for being famous, and James was the biggest; after Alig, of course. "I didn't want to be like the drearies and normals," he says, "I wanted to create a world full of color, where everyone could play. One big party that never ends."

It was a motley band of stars-in-training that Alig brought along on his rapidly accelerating funhouse ride, ranging from the callow and innocent DJ Keoki (Wilmer Valderrama, Fez from That '70s Show) to the stumbling drug casualty Christina (a purposefully incoherent Marilyn Manson). They all wanted basically the same things that Alig did - fun, clubbing, no responsibilities - and were more than willing to hitch themselves to him. They do the talk show circuit (the oily, Maury Povich-like host of one of them played to perfection by John Stamos, of all people) and go on a "recruiting" trip to a Dallas nightclub. When Alig's band is told that they're on in five minutes, they look around in confusion: "Show? We don't do anything."

One by one, they mostly fall away, either through OD-ing, running out of money, or just moving on. James keeps hovering around, even as Alig's life goes into fatal tailspin mode, because even as much as he can't stand this blindingly selfish, hedonistic mini-monster, like everyone else, he's fascinated. So fascinated, that James ended up curing his writer's block by writing a book about the murder, Disco Bloodbath, which was the basis for Party Monster. "At least he gave me something to write about," James giggles at the end. (There's also a documentary about the murder by the same name available.)

Filmmakers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato (The Eyes of Tammy Faye) gave themselves a pretty risky high-wire act to pull off, especially for documentarians trying out feature film for the first time. Not content to tell the story in typical "ripped from the headlines" fashion, they seem to want to plant the viewers right inside Alig's deranged world. Concessions to reality peek in around the corners -- an unpaid bill, a filthy apartment -- but it's quickly whirled away by another techno-backed, drug-fueled montage.

The style is hit-or-miss at first, seeming a little too preciously postmodern, as Alig and James sit on a bed arguing over who's going to be able to tell the story of the movie (James wins, of course, it's his book). But Culkin (in his first feature role since 1994's Richie Rich) and Green, both just as fabulous and pretentious as they can be, pull it off. They talk in odd, Madonna-English accents, with lots of darlings, which works seamlessly with the film's hyperactive, glittery feel; it's like being locked in a pixie dust-coated playhouse.

If a criticism could be made, it's that Bailey and Barbato fell a little too much in love with Alig. While James' book acknowledges Alig's killer charm - how else could he have gotten so far with so little otherwise? - but is pretty unsparing in its depiction of an uncaring murderer. The filmmakers seem to want to find the lost little boy inside, when in actuality, by the end, all that was left was the callous, grinning shell.

Monstrous.



Facts and Figures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Cast & Crew

Producer: Edward R. Pressman, , , ,

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Life Movie Review

Life Movie Review

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective...

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

Based on a true story, it's the historical aspect of these events that holds the...

Chips Movie Review

Chips Movie Review

It's clear from the very start that this movie has little to do with the...

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

This remake of Disney's 1991 classic is remarkably faithful, using present-day digital animation effects to...

The Salesman Movie Review

The Salesman Movie Review

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi won his second Oscar with this astute drama which, like 2011's...

Get Out Movie Review

Get Out Movie Review

Leave it to a comedian to make one of the scariest movies in recent memory....

Personal Shopper Movie Review

Personal Shopper Movie Review

After winning a series of major awards for her role in Olivier Assayas' Clouds of...

Advertisement
Certain Women Movie Review

Certain Women Movie Review

In films like Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, writer-director Kelly Reichardt has told sharply...

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

After the success of 2014's Godzilla reboot, the Warner Bros monsters get their own franchise,...

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Filmmaker Gurinder Chada (Bend It Like Beckham) draws on her own family history to explore...

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

With an extra dose of attitude and energy, this Irish comedy-drama hits us like a...

Logan Movie Review

Logan Movie Review

Hugh Jackman returns to his signature role one last time (so he says), reuniting with...

Patriots Day Movie Review

Patriots Day Movie Review

The third time's a charm for Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who previously teamed...

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

It's no surprise that this creep-out horror thriller is packed with whizzy visual invention, since...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.