Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Party Monster

The garish rise and brutal fall of Michael Alig, killer club kid, is such an outlandish true story that it takes enormous restraint on the part of the teller just to keep it from devolving into camp. Clubland, journalist Frank Owen's wonderfully square book on the subject, brought an effectively Dragnet-like just-the-facts tone to the ghoulishly outrageous proceedings. Alas, restraint isn't the strong suit of Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, the team behind The RuPaul Show, The Eyes Of Tammy Faye, and now Party Monster, a narrative digital-video feature on Alig and the flamboyant club culture he helped create. The personification of Andy Warhol's inescapable adage about everyone being famous for 15 minutes, Alig (played by Macaulay Culkin) used his life as his art and his body as his canvas. The spiritual progeny of Warhol's fabulously useless superstars, Alig became famous for dressing up in elaborately hideous costumes and throwing outrageous parties where designer drugs were dispensed like snack-sized Snickers bars on Halloween. As long as money and publicity poured in, his malevolently paternal, eye-patch-sporting boss (Dylan McDermott) tolerated Alig's rampant drug abuse and bad behavior. The bottom dropped out, however, when Alig killed a drug dealer and agreed to testify against his boss for what he thought was immunity. His story follows the tried-and-true arc of an E! True Hollywood Story, with a sharp, dramatic rise followed by an even more pronounced fall. But as Party Monster illustrates, Alig was no innocent corrupted by fame, drugs, and power. He started out as a posturing, obnoxious fop, and drugs and power merely exacerbated his effete boorishness. Party Monster dutifully captures the emptiness and numbing excess of hedonism without boundaries or structure, but provides little indication as to why so many people found this dress-up universe of eternal nightlife so appealing. As fuzzily rendered on ugly digital video, even Alig's ostensible triumphs feel like a bad Halloween party, experienced through a hangover. The film's only real bright spot is Seth Green, who, as Culkin's sidekick, brings Party Monster a droll wit it otherwise lacks. It's such a dreary mess that when Culkin insists that life in prison isn't too different from being a club kid, it's all too easy to believe him.


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