In 1970s Belfast, Terri Hooley (Richard Dormer) is an idealistic rocker who finds himself caught in the middle of Northern Ireland's bitter Troubles. Seeing a parallel in the chaos with Jamaica, Hooley opens a record shop, Good Vibrations, to help bring reggae music to his city to help encourage some harmony. However, Hooley soon discovers a new music genre, punk rock, and is inspired by its youthful vitality to become an important record producer and promoter of the local scene. In doing so, Hooley struggles both with the industry's realities and his chaotic personal life that threaten to consume him. However, he is also instrumental in creating an alternative Irish community that bridges religious and social rivalries with an art no one expected. (Based on a true story)
Review by Louise Keller:
Set on a backdrop of 70s Belfast replete with bombs and conflict, passion for life is the central theme for this offbeat and up-beat film in which punk and new wave music unites the un-uniteable. It is symbolic that anti-hero Terri Hooley (Richard Dormer) lost an eye as a child; he is equally one-eyed when it comes to dreaming big and making things happen by his sheer bloody mindedness. There is a raucous sense of immediacy about Lisa Barros D'Sa and Glenn Leyburn's film as we tag along through the ups and downs, mishaps and missteps of a man whose dream is big enough to cut through a war. Some of the Irish brogue is hard to decipher and the exposition stumbles at times, but there is no mistaking the energy and commitment of both the filmmakers and their characters.
It takes just forty pounds (and a mortgage on his house) to allow Hooley to open the doors of his record shop Good Vibrations and the dream flies from there. Record producer, tour manager follows as the up and coming protégés (The Outcasts, The Undertones) are set in the spotlight. While there is an element of rags to riches about the story, the feel-good vibe is created by the exuberance. There is a devil may care attitude throughout, exemplified in the scene when Hooley and a bunch of musos are pulled up in their van in the middle of the night by police who let them go when it comes out that the motley group is a mix of both Catholics and Protestants. It is typical that Hooley never bothered to find out which side they were on. Dormer plays the rascally Hooley with great conviction and although he is no saint, he is a likable rogue and we are on his wavelength from the outset.
Parallel to the ups and downs of the business is Hooley's relationship with his wife Ruth (Jodie Whittaker) that also takes a battering. The build up to the climactic finale at Ulster Hall, when 2,000 tickets need to be sold to rescue Hooley from his financial plight, is nicely done and by the time we learn that there is something more important than money, we intuitively feel that the good vibes are spreading.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
New York had the haircuts, London had the trousers but Belfast had the reason ... for punk, or so said Terri Hooley, a romantic music lover who turned record shop keeper and talent scout and recording angel to some Irish punk bands in the 70s. This is his story, told with the chaotic razzamatazz with which he lived.
Despite having a wannabe politician father - who had tried unsuccessfully many times to be elected on a far left ticket - Terri was less into dividing people than uniting them, albeit accidentally. He didn't set out to provide a physical space for punk rockers and thus create a musical embrace that crossed partisan lines in very partisan Belfast. But once it happened, he recognised it.
Richard Dormer is authentic as Hooley, who loses an eye as a child but gains the fortitude to ignore the disability. Hooley is enthusiastic at both music and drinking, a combination he regards as living. He marries the sweet and forgiving Ruth (Jodie Whittaker, outstanding) but he continues to blunder through with his heart set on recognition for his beloved young band, The Outcasts.
There are many flourishes in this film, from visual playfulness to devices that rapidly move us through story elements, to touches of magic realism. All in all (and some stumbling story telling aside), the film captures the ebullient mood of the era amidst the cranage and trauma of the Troubles, and gives us a glimpse of a small backwater in music history that is entirely the result of one Terri Hooley. And a glimpse of Terri Hooley as an unreliable husband/father, not to mention irresponsible manager of commercial realities. But the mood of the film overlooks these shortcomings in its enthusiasm to put him on a pedestal.
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GOOD VIBRATIONS (TBA)
CAST: Richard Dormer, Jodie Whittaker, Liam Cunningham, Dylan Moran, Andrew Simpson, Mark Ryder, David Wilmot, Karl Johnson, Adrian Dunbar
PRODUCER: Bruno Charlesworth, Andrew Eaton, David Holmes, Chris Martin
DIRECTOR: Lisa Barros D'Sa, Glenn Leyburn
SCRIPT: Colin Carberry, Glenn Patterson
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ivan McCullough
EDITOR: Nick Emerson
MUSIC: David Holmes
RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Curious
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 12, 2014