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[VFF '14] "Good VIbrations," ~ A Music Review

Movie Reviews Wednesday, 05 February 2014 00:00
[VFF '14] "Good VIbrations,"  ~ A Music Review

The title Good Vibrations can be deceptive unless a plot summary is next to it. Some people may think that this movie is about the Beach Boys, and it’s very far from that. Instead, this film looks at the emerging punk rock movement in a country embroiled in a civil war. This film is a fictionalized account of Terri Hooley’s life (Richard Dormer), a free-age thinker, who just wants to life to be gentler, if not kinder to him and his world.

As he grew up he came to accept that the unrest would brew into something more. The boiling point reached critical in Belfast, Ireland in the late 70s and early 80s. Curiously, he decides to set up a music shop right in the middle of where the conflict is happening. He has it in his mind that music, in any form — from country to Mozart — can help bring everyone together. The Clash’s Joe Strummer best summarized all that went down in Northern Ireland; “When punk rock ruled over Ulster, nobody ever had more excitement and fun. Between the bombings and shootings, the religious hatred and the settling of old scores, punk gave everybody a chance to live for one glorious burning moment,” and that sentiment is perfectly reflected here by directors Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn.

Dormer is excellent as an everyday person just wanting a better life. He’s married and has a child to care for, but there’s conflict in him. Does he leave with his family or can he do more and extend it to the bands and mates for whom he becomes a record label manager – therein lies the compelling nature of the narrative.


The music that Hooley discovers from them is a miracle, and the visual religious allegories made here certainly have to be noted. The cinematography is solid and it helps raise this film to a level that must be seen. Despite the dark themes that underscore the film, there’s a happy tone to be found in the music. The soundtrack includes tunes from Rudi, The Undertones, The Shangri-Las and The Outcasts (to name a few). This movie is like a discography of everything Good Vibrations released when it was its own record label.

The music used throughout the film only epitomizes what this film’s general message is about: live for the moment – understand the life. If you can’t escape the harsh reality, it’s okay to say fuck you! 

Although everything is presented from Hooley’s perspective, his exuberance is infectious. Dormer’s performance shows an innocence that becomes more assertive by the end, making it easy to root for him, and wish he will achieve his goal. Ultimately, Good Vibrations is an infectious feel good movie that says, it’s all right to be yourself and vent, no matter how much of the world is going to hell.

Written by  Ed Sum

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