Party Monster (2003)

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During the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, Michael Alig revolutionized the fad known as the Club Kids. This story, based on the accounts of longtime friend and mentor James St. James, depicts the rise and fall of a NYC nightlife icon, when Alig was convicted in 1997 after pleading guilty for the murder of drug dealer and roommate Angel Menendez.

Michael Alig was a young kid from the Midwest who had dreams of making it big in New York City. When he finds the eccentric clubber James St. James, Michael does what he can to get James’ attention because he is impressed with him. James eventually teaches Michael a thing or two about the nightlife in New York City. However, what started out as potentially a major mistake changes Michael’s life as he soon finds himself working for Peter Gatien after purposely setting off a sprinkle in the basement of Gatien’s club, The Limelight.

Alig, with the help of James, forms a revolution forever known as the Club Kids. This new popular trend is all about freedom of expressionism. One would never have to be ashamed of being him or herself and enjoy it without pressure from anyone else. When Alig goes on a cross-country trip to find other Club Kids, he meets Angel Menendez, a drug dealer who joins as a Club Kid. However, Alig soon finds himself undergoing a downward spiral due to an addiction to various drugs, from “Special K” to cocaine. Soon, Alig’s world is turned upside down when a fatal incident forever changes his life.

Based on the novel “Disco Bloodbath” written by James St. James, the concept may seem like a movie that just could be borderline ridiculous and that’s understandable. Especially if you are not familiar with the story of Michael Alig and the Club Kids. This is actually a true story that is written through the eyes of James about the rise and fall of his one-time friend Alig. The Club Kids came post-Studio 54 and they were the toast of NYC nightlife. As a matter of fact, they got so popular that even TV talk show host Phil Donahue had them appear on an episode.

What will prove to be completely shocking is that Alig is played by a now adult Macauley Culkin, who returned to the screens nine years after his last film, Richie Rich. Which is ironic because one of the Club Kids happens to be named Richie Rich, who is a fashion designer today. Culkin actually pulls it off well as Alig, who came for a dream, lived the dream of making it big, only to fall due to addiction. One would never expect Seth Green to even pull it off quite well as James St. James, who became Alig’s mentor and one-time confidant. For those who do wonder, their relationship is strictly platonic and never goes beyond that, as one who might not understand the nightlife of that era, would possibly expect. As St. James, Green pulls it off nicely as we see him in the opener in Los Angeles, pretty much narrating the story in a way St. James pulled it off himself in the novel. Yes folks, I actually read the book last month and it is a great pop culture true story that is a good read.

Many people might laugh at what’s eccentric for the cast playing the Club Kids. One Club Kid, Christina Superstar, is actually played by an almost unrecognizable Marilyn Manson. At first, you might not be able to tell, but after a certain scene, you will say to yourself, “I see it now”. Dylan McDermott makes the most of his screen time as club impresario Peter Gatien while Mia Kirshner plays his somewhat dominant wife, who one can tell from her introduction, already doesn’t approve of Alig too much. Wilmer Valderrama plays it well as Alig’s first big discovery and love interest, Keoki. Interestingly enough, their scene in hiding after ditching a cab fare and hiding in a garbage is actually done unexpectedly tasteful considering the times. Wilson Cruz plays drug dealing Club Kid Angel Menendez, who plays a pivotal role in the eventual fall of Alig himself.

In reality, James St. James left and is living quietly in Los Angeles, where he published a fictional novel, Freak Show, in 2007, which earned rave reviews and is on the list of the American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults. As for Michael Alig, in May 2014, he was paroled after serving sixteen-and-a half years. While following the conditions of his parole, Alig is now an avid artist and does the occasional exhibition and sales while last month, was interviewed about incidents in prisons.

Party Monster may seem like a very strange film because of its eccentric lead characters. However, the story of the rise and fall of a NYC nightlife icon is a pretty good one thanks to the performances of the returning Macauley Culkin and with Seth Green as the film’s narrator and mentor/friend of said icon. The supporting cast pull off some good performances as well. If you are into pop culture, this is one film to check out.

WFG RATING: B

A ContentFilm and Killer Films Production in association with World of Wonder. Directors: Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato. Producers: Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato, Jon Marcus, Brad Simpson, and Christine Vachon. Writers: Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato; based on the novel “Disco Bloodbath” by James St. James. Cinematography: Teodoro Maniaci. Editing: Jeremy Simmons

Cast: Macauley Culkin, Seth Green, Diana Scarwid, Chloe Sevigny, Marilyn Manson, Dylan McDermott, Mia Kirshner, Wilmer Valderrama, Natasha Lyonne, Wilson Cruz, Justin Hagan.

 

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