Good Vibrations (M)

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Review byMatthew Turner29/03/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 103 mins

Highly entertaining, engagingly directed biopic with a sharply written script, a fabulous soundtrack and a terrific central performance from Richard Dormer.

What's it all about?
Co-directed by Lisa Barros D'Sa and Glenn Leyburn, Good Vibrations is based on a true story and begins in the 1960s with young Terri Hooley losing an eye after a fight with neighbourhood kids in Belfast, partly because of his socialist father, who's standing as an independent mayoral candidate. Flash forward to the early 1970s and apolitical Terri (Richard Dormer) runs his own record shop (called Good Vibrations), right in the centre of Belfast's most violent area, occasionally paying off gunmen by plying them with vinyl.

After meeting and marrying Ruth (Jodie Whittaker), Terri's fortunes take a turn for the better when he discovers punk bands The Outcasts and The Undertones and he achieves a small measure of success when radio DJ John Peel takes to the latter's single Teenage Kicks. However, Terri's deliberate disdain for the business side of things means that he fails to really profit from his successes, which eventually puts a strain on his marriage.

The Good
Accomplished stage actor Richard Dormer has hitherto only been seen in bit parts on screen, but he proves an inspired choice for Hooley, delivering a lively, characterful performance that is a joy to watch. Similarly, Jodie Whittaker nails the Belfast accent and is extremely likeable as Ruth, while there's strong support from Kerr Logan as Feargal Sharkey.

The script is excellent, creating a strong sense of time and place and achieving a palpable sense of ever-lurking dread by largely keeping the Troubles in the background; this is heightened by the use of genuine TV newsreel footage from the period. Needless to say, there's also a cracking soundtrack and D'Sa and Leyburn find inventive ways to ensure that we don't get tired of hearing the Undertones' classic track.

The Great
Hooley himself emerges as a fascinating character and his deliberate eschewing of any form of profit is both subtly provocative and weirdly admirable, even if it does also seem rather self-destructive. In addition, D'Sa and Leyburn pack the film with several wonderful moments, such as the transported expression on Terri's face whenever he hears a great new song; indeed, his pure, unadulterated love of music is beautifully expressed throughout.

Worth seeing?
Charming and bittersweet, Good Vibrations is a hugely enjoyable, superbly acted biopic that's well worth seeking out. Highly recommended.

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Good Vibrations (M)
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Content updated: 29/01/2020 01:37

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