REVIEW

Creation Stories a portrait of music industry entrepreneur Alan McGee

Creation Stories MA, 112 minutes, 3 stars

My late and great housemate Andrew Thomas, whom I flatted with in my 20s, would get home every afternoon from his menial job, lock himself in his bedroom and blast Oasis for at least one full album, possibly two if the day was more menial than usual, chain-smoking the whole way through, until he would emerge about 7pm, once again socially presentable and ready for fun.

I was more into movies at the time, not so much into music, and so Nick Moran's biopic of Creation Records founder and Oasis discoverer Alan McGee was a beautiful slice of my own youth. Not the bands I loved so much as the soundtrack to my 20s as heard through the paper-thin walls of suburban Canberra share homes.

McGee was a true entrepreneur of the music industry who gave careers to bands like Primal Scream (with whom McGee went to school in Glasgow), The Jesus and Mary Chain, a bunch of house music acts, and eventually Oasis.

McGee is a true character who found himself at the centre of Western popular culture probably because he incubated and enabled it, and with Creation Stories McGee himself produces and the script is based on his 2013 autobiography. That's egomania in its purest form, but fortunately for us, McGee is a fairly self-aware figure. He apparently rejected Ewan McGregor as the film's lead for being too handsome and instead cast McGregor's Trainspotting castmate, the delightfully unpretty Ewen Bremner.

As the film opens, the young Alan McGee (played as a teenager by Leo Flanagan) shares a suburban Glasgow home with loving mum Laura (Rori Hawthorn) and volatile dad John (Richard Jobson) and family. Dad is adamant Alan gets a trade but young Alan's mind is blown when the Sex Pistols appear on the telly, and he forms a band in his bedroom with some mates.

While those mates will later go on to become Primal Scream, Alan heads for London and a life of menial daytime jobs and nights of clubbing, initially as a punter but eventually as a promoter.

Alan has the gift of banter and will tell everyone he has no talent, but his talent is impeccable musical taste and relentless (drug-fuelled) energy, and through years of hard slog, Alan and the mates who work with him on their tiny record label start making an impact, particularly when The Jesus and Mary Chain come along.

While a Sony Records buy-out and Oasis would eventually come along, the Creation Records story meanders with the boys discovering a love of house music along the way. In fact, by the time of Oasis's record-breaking second album, the years of pressure and excess have taken their toll and McGee spectacularly breaks down LA-style, in the Chateau Marmont after an epic drug binge.

There is rightly so much cultural history to be packed in and it takes a writer the calibre of Irvine Welsh, McGee's real-life mate, to do it justice.

Welsh and his regular writing partner Dean Cavanagh build a bit of scaffolding to attempt to contain McGee's Jackson Pollock splatter of a life. Suki Waterhouse appears throughout as a journalist who interviews McGee at various stages of his career which allows Bremner and the screenplay to vomit endless exposition without being too obvious. Regular trips home for Christmas allow a subtle transposition of McGee's wished-for success stories to become real success stories.

But with so much real life to contain, there isn't much room for character development. Even the Gallagher Brothers (played by Leo Harvey-Elledge and James McClelland, each with a beautiful mess of eyebrows) are mere side characters.

And so with the bulk of the film focusing on Alan himself, the fact that he is unrepentantly obnoxious and unlikeable throughout is grating. Endlessly grating. In one scene mercifully close to the end a woman in Alan's therapy group sighs and looks at her watch while Alan bangs on about something or other, and I must admit that I had just done the same thing myself.

But it is a brilliant immersive portrayal by Bremner, and filmmaker Nick Moran has a point to make with the hard edits and the pace and banter - that nobody can keep that pace up and of course that includes Alan himself.

The filmmaker himself does a Hitchcock, turning in a fabulous cameo performance as Malcolm McLaren who was responsible for getting McGee into British politics - McGee helped twist the Gallagher brothers' arms into throwing their support behind Tony Blair and New Labour.

Moran plays with form at times producing a handful of fine moments, including a hallucinatory choreographed nightclub scene and a joyful mess of a moment in a tea house dancing to house music.

Creation Stories is unmissable cinema, though more for the brilliant lesson in social history than for superlative filmmaking.

Creation Stories is unmissable cinema, though more for the brilliant lesson in social history than for superlative filmmaking. Picture: Supplied

Creation Stories is unmissable cinema, though more for the brilliant lesson in social history than for superlative filmmaking. Picture: Supplied

This story Portrait of a very obnoxious man first appeared on The Canberra Times.