Subcultures are a fascinating thing.
Don't even start reading about the people living in New York's old tunnels. You'll emerge from your internet-fog three years later with withered legs and a fierce desire to set up camp in your septic tank.
Getting a glimpse into a subculture lets you temporarily live it without running the risk of being eaten by horse-sized rats. Ever wanted to know more about New York's Club Kids? Just check out 2003's Party Monster, where you'll learn all about exotic drugs, parties in doughnut stores and Seth Green in nonstop drag.
After moving to New York, Macaulay Culkin inserts himself under the wing of socialite Seth Green. A gifted party-thrower, Culkin rises quickly in the local social scene, establishing the "Club Kids" movement. Soon, though, his nonstop drug abuse spirals into violence.
Party Monster is based on a true story. Most of the time, "based on a true story" means "this movie and the real events took place in universes where the people wear shirts." In this case, it seems to be a pretty faithful adaptation of the facts, which include a murdered person being left in their bathtub for days because everyone's too drug-crazy to do anything about it. Now that could make for a fine movie.
It doesn't. At all. Though it is gaining something of a cult following in some party circles for its insane costumes and happy hedonism, Party Monster is kind of like a low-rent Blow. Let's remember, all that needs to be said about Blow is its title. Other times, Party Monster comes off like a vampire movie except instead of blood it's Special K.
The problem here is direction. Or more like a lack of it, ha ha! OK, enough of that forever. Culkin's ascent to partymaster of the universe is illustrated by a single scene of passing out fliers. Green is the ostensible narrator, but he drops in and out of the story and frequently forgets he's the narrator at all. The movie has all the momentum of a sidewalk and the authority of that friendly Nigerian prince who keeps emailing about your bank account.
Party Monster does have the performances of Culkin and Green going for it. How to describe them? Gutsy? Fabulously omitted? Or like you've always imagined elves would act if you let them loose in a warehouse full of ecstasy, techno and sexy nurse costumes? Yeah, that's the one.
I suppose there's an appropriately grimy, sleazy feel to it, too. Mostly, though, Party Monster feels amateurish and clumsy, like a prestige biopic filmed by people who'd never seen one.
* Contact Ed Robertson at email@example.com.