Creation Records founder, Oasis-finder, and general Midas, Alan McGee is perhaps admired by no one more than McGee himself.
Nick Moran, in directing Creation Stories, has successfully managed to create a film that is so deeply effective in demonstrating a visceral whiplash – adverts for road safety should be envious. In concluding the film, I felt myself breathe a sigh of relief that the attack on my audio-visual senses had finally ceased, then – almost instantly – wonder if what had just unfolded was a series of late-night hallucinations. It was like the day after a very shite night out. Did Suki Waterhouse appear in a minor role? Did they fail to cast an actor capable of doing a Glaswegian accent in the main role of Glaswegian Alan McGee? There was a scene in LA involving a rapper and a crack den wedged in there somewhere, wasn't there? Didn't the main character slap Margaret Thatcher's bum at one point?
Creation Stories follows the life of Creation Records founder and "maverick" Alan McGee, and joins a long line of rock biopics following the lives of White men who struggle with something at some point, ultimately concluding in a poignant, melancholic finale. Although an interesting tale for any music fan, Creation Stories is ideal for those particularly interested in the rich history of the Glasgow independent scene of the 80s and 90s which is seldom awarded well-deserved attention on a rather London-centric big screen. The film indulges in a rather confusing double timeline, perhaps best mastered in the likes of Godfather II and Little Women. It depicts a current McGee (Ewen Bremner) being interviewed by young American journalist Gemma (Suki Waterhouse) in Los Angeles, recounting his illustrious career; and flashbacks to a young McGee (Leo Flanagan) balancing a love of music (first Bowie, then punk) and money with a personal lack of musical talent.
Although the young actor's Manchester accent is overwhelmingly and distractingly apparent – I often found myself often wincing at the odd blend of Mancunian and slightly Highland-y, generic Scottish accent which often broke the already shoogly (classic Glaswegian word in compensation for the films Weegie erasure) illusion of realism – Flanagan shines in the teenage reincarnation, and gives a most likeable portrayal of McGee. Flanagan is undeniably talented, and perfectly encapsulates the spirit of trying to have a hobby, despite a crushing societal, west-of-Scotland masculinity and cringe culture, especially in 1970s Southside Glasgow. Disappointingly, we say goodbye to Flanagan at the 20-minute mark, and Bremner is shoehorned into a young adult version of McGee that feels rather ill-fitting despite his best efforts and a generous, curly, red-haired wig. Henceforth, Creation Stories alternates between McGee's modern-self and past-self, both played by Bremner, with both timelines progressing and warping in a series of drug-fuelled binges.
Yet, while the film attempts to synthesise this drug-induced haze as a sort of artistic directorial decision – a form of commentary on the "wild days, man" – the editing felt confusing and cringingly try-hard-cool, producing the kind of second-hand embarrassment you got listening to a friend you knew was lying about their boyfriend "from another school", but you just sort of smiled and half-listened; too polite to call bullshit. An example of this might be the title headline which boldly proclaims, "Most of this happened … Some names have been changed … To protect the guilty." Which spurred my first David Brent "ooh, you're hard" impression of many throughout the runtime.
Oftentimes, it felt like a weak attempt to recreate the unapologetic edge of Trainspotting with Irvine Welsh assuming a writer role (as well as starring as Titch) and Bremner in a role which had faint echoes of Spud. Here, however, Welsh's trademark dark humour falls flat, specifically in a scene where McGee is proposed a corporate deal by a businessman, Mitch, who is anally penetrated by another man who is smoking a cigar, during his pitch to acquire Creation Records – a result of McGee's "vivid imagination". I can imagine the writing team were throwing their heads back with the cleverness of that one.
Yet, Bremner shone in a rather challenging, often paradoxical role, which was clearly written as a highly unlikeable-yet-likeable figure; narcissistic, money-orientated, greedy, and deeply flawed. The mechanics of the film fail the possibility of McGee's interesting life story, as the structure sees pointless scenes fleshed out – multiple drug hallucinations last longer than explanations of how Creation Records came to be – leaving viewers who are perhaps unaware of contexts at a loss. Unfortunately, as a result of this, McGee's work with definitive artists like My Bloody Valentine, Teenage Fanclub, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and Primal Scream often feels brushed over, despite creating some of the most interesting scenes.
Additionally, the self-indulgent dialogue also fails the tale and, bizarrely, feels as though McGee himself got hold of the script and began adding lines in order to make himself seem "cool”. At one point, McGee's friend (unironically) asks "why has [Alan] got such a way with women?", and later Alan states, "being a millionaire is bloody monotonous" alongside communicating nightmares of "drowning in money".
Oasis, who McGee famously discovered, after a sequence of Sliding Doors-esque events, including missing a train, are fodder for a pivotal scene. While the exterior of King Tuts, the location in which the band were scouted, is the real deal, the interior is, annoyingly, clearly filmed on a distractingly staged set, like much of the rest of the film, which Bremner revealed was filmed in a disused shopping complex in Watford as a result of a low budget. Sadly, the result is a rather plastic, artificial look, lacking in atmosphere. Yet, the film lacked the astronomical funds of music biopics like Rocketman or Bohemian Rhapsody and I can't help but feel they tried their best.
Unsurprisingly, the film concludes rather oddly. Alan's end-of-film monologue is a particular highlight, which sees Bremner flex his acting skills, fighting back tears while grimly proclaiming, "Everyone I touch, everyone I worked with has been a success … made millions … it's a Midas touch" – to which I nearly fell off my couch laughing.
Creation Stories is an exercise in narcissism that oftentimes felt like a parody. Put simply; the film did too much and didn’t execute it well. It was purposefully over-the-top with a breakneck speed and an excessive number of montages depicting drugs, punk, raves, or anything the film needed to "explain" quickly, and used a jarring juxtaposition of real footage and stock images, which resulted in a cheap and odd feel that lingered throughout. Creation Stories often attempted to be meaningful but lacked heart and struggled to find a coherent voice. As a fan of that period of Glasgow artists, especially those under Creation Records, it was particularly disappointing, as McGee and his contemporaries have so much potential for adaptation; if it had just simplified its material it may have succeeded. Instead, it dove into pointless rabbit holes and discarded or muddled three decades worth of interesting content. Yet, the film tells a wild tale and is undeniably laced with great talent, particularly that of Ewen Bremner, Leo Flanagan, and Jason Isaacs, and hosts some amusing cameos; with non-Oasis Gallagher brother, Paul Gallagher, and The Libertines' Carl Barât.
It certainly has to be seen to be believed.
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