“Unpleasant, unsympathetic and a drag to sit through.”
After the critical and commercial success of Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman it seems that a new era of music biopics is inevitable; the list of upcoming releases and greenlit projects is currently as long as a Van Halen guitar solo. As the Kings and Queens of Pop get reincarnated for the silver screen, the arrival of a rogue film to disrupt the mainstream was almost as inevitable. Creation Stories has a near perfect subject in Punk producer Alan McGee to become such a disruptor. It’s a shame then that his paint-by-numbers biopic, born from a cliché-ridden script and driven by some truly catastrophic direction, is more of a snore fest than the punky rebel it clearly thinks it is.
Alan McGee (Ewan Bremner) was the head of the phenomenally successful Creation Records, representing huge bands like The Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream and Oasis. After leaving his Glasgow council estate for London in the early 1980s, McGee independently turned himself from rags to riches, proudly doing everything his own way. After the first ten minutes of Creation Stories, McGee seems fundamentally unlikable. Over the next hour and a half, he gets steadily worse, particularly once you realise that the script (written by Irvine Welsh and, frequent McGee collaborator, Dean Cavanagh) thinks he’s a genius. Using an interview as a framing device, Welsh and Cavanagh have McGee rattle through his life taking every opportunity for self-praise. Far from having a roguish charm, as seems to be the intention, the script cannot escape its clear hero worshipping. Jemma, the interviewer (Suki Waterhouse), is an offensive joke of a part; asking questions which may as well be, ‘Alan, just how amazing are you?’, while irresistibly fluttering her eyelids at the sight of him guzzling champagne and explaining that success is not all it’s cracked up to be.
Any brief attempts the script makes at poignancy are then ruined by shoddy direction. Nick Moran has paced the film at around 100 mph. Thousands of scenes, each less than a minute long, cascade into one another barely giving the audience time to understand what happened or who was even in them. The discovery of different bands come and go in the blink of an eye. Instead, the context is explained by McGee’s never-ending voice-over. Which the film prioritises over any attempt to build a real emotional connection between Alan and the people he shares the screen with. As a result, Moran manages to populate the film with a series of one-dimensional characters, many of whom are real people. Their only saving grace is that they’re never given enough screen time to leave a lasting impression.
Perhaps the film is too ambitious for its budget. While, in some small way, this may be trying to emulate the sensibilities of Punk, it utterly fails to show any of the originality that made those bands successful. Moran’s chaotic editing is, unsuccessfully, trying to copy the cross-cutting sequences of Danny Boyle’s inimitable Trainspotting and soon becomes excruciating to watch. While Welsh regurgitates the same commentary on drug abuse that he’s been writing for decades, which has now thoroughly lost its edge. It’s true that reality may prove too challenging and, for some, drugs are the only alternative. But hearing this explained to a millionaire by another millionaire, as a moment of absolution, while they fly first-class back to their multi-million-dollar record label tends to provoke rage rather than empathy.
The shame is that McGee may well have been far more skilful than the film makes him look. But instead, he comes across as a misogynist, egotistical, useless chancer. Worse still, the film positions McGee as the singular talent behind all the musicians with whom he (by the script’s own admittance) accidentally rubbed shoulders with. Taking an exciting and fascinating part of British musical history the film chooses to explore it and explain it through one specific pair of rose-tinted glasses. Rather than capturing the era’s inspiring sense of maverick rebellion, Creation Stories’ own irritating self-indulgence inspires only one thought; ‘Oh, do shut up Grandpa.’
Dir: Nick Moran
Wri: Irvine Welsh & Dean Cavanagh
Prod: Ben Dillon, Shelley Hammond, Hollie Richmond, Orian Williams
Cast: Ewan Bremner, Suki Waterhouse, Thomas Turgoose, Leo Flanagan
Header image courtesy of Sky Cinema