Creation Stories is a Sky Original film which attempts to dramatise the life of Creation record label founder, Alan McGee.
A quick glance at the promotional material fills you with hope:
Missing from that is that this was co-written by Irvine Welsh. But there’s Danny Boyle’s name given prominance. And although you may not recognise him from the picture, that’s Ewen Bremner in the main role.
And what a soundtrack that promises to be!
Here’s the trailer:
Looks good, right?
*Scrolls through the rest of the imdb entry*
Look, there’s actual proper acting royalty in the form of Steven Berkoff and Saskia Reeves. Actual comic acting royalty supplied by Paul Kaye, Rufus Jones and Danny John-Jules. There’s Richard Jobson, making a pretty good fist of doing something useful for the first time since The Skids split up. There’s comedians Ed Byrne as…er…Alistair Campbell (I wish I could say: “Now that’s ironic!” here, but it isn’t) and Alistair McGowan as Jimmy Savile (are you sure about this? – Ed). Blink-and-you’ll-miss-them cameos by Bez, Carl Barat and Brix Smith-Start. And practically the entire cast of This Is England is involved (well, the ones who haven’t gone on to super-stardom since, anyway) and that can’t be a bad thing.
Danny Boyle is just the Executive Producer. Along with fourteen others (not including Co-Executive Producers). Which means he’s put some cash into the project and that’s about the end of his involvement.
I don’t know if you saw it flash up in the trailer, but this is directed by Nick Moran, who also plays Malcolm McLaren. Hmm, this is starting to look less promising by the second.
And so it proves to be.
There’s an awful lot that’s wrong with Creation Stories.
The first thing is that given the vast amount of Class A drugs ingested by McGee in the film, and given he is played by Ewen Bremner – a fine actor, and no mistake – it becomes almost impossible to shake off the memory of the other drug-guzzling character he has played in a Boyle/Welsh collaboration: Spud in Trainspotting.
There’s nothing here but reminders of Spud’s most iconic moments, the interview:
and the…er…morning after scene:
(The fact that in a review of one film, I’m posting clips from an entirely different film speaks volumes.)
To be clear, I’ve seen Bremner in many other productions, and after the initial recognition has passed, not once did I have Spud on my mind. It’s not Bremner’s fault that Creation Stories is such a dud, he does the very best he can with what he’s been given. I just think they could have cast somebody who didn’t invoke all these memories and comparisons, which have an undesirable effect on his performance and the film. Although I am struggling to think of who that might be.
And what of the crowd-pleasing creatives, namely Boyle and Welsh? To be honest, I can’t see Boyle’s influence at all here, and I reckon the most that Welsh had to do with writing it was ensuring the Scottish vernacular remained honest and true. “I’ve finished the screenplay now Irvine, can you chuck some swear words in, and make sure they’re not snorting when they should be smoking?”
To drive the plot, the film uses perhaps the laziest premise for a biopic: a journalist is interviewing McGee for a retrospective article in an American paper, or magazine, or TV show, it’s not made terribly clear. His story is told via a series of anecdotes, transposed to flashbacks. This method is employed so that the narrative can jump from one momentous moment to the next without really having to explain how we got from point A to point B.
(I wasn’t taking notes, but I also suspect there were several errors in the chronology.)
And I wouldn’t get too excited about that soundtrack, for the moments when you’re swept away by the music are few and far between.
I appreciate, of course, that Creation Records were responsible for a lot of amazing output during it’s all-to-brief tenure as the self-proclaimed “Coolest Record Label on Earth”, and there’s a lot to try and cram into one movie, but there are some acts who are conspicuous by their absence: there’s no mention at all of Super Furry Animals, and they once hired a tank and drove it through London to promote one of their records, which surely would have been visual gold.
Similarly, Teenage Fanclub barely get a mention, overlooking how integral to the label’s success their Bandwagonesque album was. I think I heard a snatch of this in the background in one scene, mind:
McGee is presented as an egotistical chancer, who repeatedly got lucky by being at events where unsigned bands just happened to be playing, and I’m not sure that’s entirely true.
But it’s here that I found the one true highlight of them film, when McGee’s own band are playing in a dingy backstreet London boozer, the Television Personalities invade the stage and take over, perform one song, announce “Here’s our second song. It’s the same as the first one, BUT LOUDER!” once it’s finished, before launching into exactly the same song, which they do indeed played louder than they had the first time.
If you’re at entry level, know nothing about Creation Records or Alan McGee, then I’d recommend Creation Stories as a stepping-on point and nothing more.
Otherwise, I’d say avoid at all costs. Stick with the 2010 Upside Down: The Creation Records Story documentary instead.