- Emma Simmonds
- 15 March 2021
Ewen Bremner brings manic energy to his portrayal of Creation Records' Alan McGee in Nick Moran's biopic
The rise of music industry executive Alan McGee and his Creation Records label becomes a colourful and chaotic film in the vein of 24 Hour Party People, directed by Lock, Stock star Nick Moran and starring Trainspotting's Ewen Bremner as the guru in question. With McGee living larger than many of his acts, Creation Stories immerses us in his pursuit of great music and ever greater highs, to a sometimes stressful degree.
Growing up in Glasgow, where he was pals with future Primal Scream founder Bobby Gillespie, McGee (initially played by Leo Flanagan) experimented musically himself, in bands like The Laughing Apple and most famously Biff Bang Pow!. In 1983, whilst living in London, he formed Creation Records who, despite their haphazard methods and terrible financial management, managed to make a splash with the success of The Jesus and Mary Chain, before Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine, Teenage Fanclub and eventually Oasis were added to their roster.
With Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh on screenwriting duties, alongside Dean Cavanagh, you'd expect a wittier, rather than just purely sweary, script, and without that to cling onto the film can flounder. There are amusing moments though – McGee's withering verdict on New Labour's D:Ream campaign theme 'Things Can Only Get Better' ('Let's face it, it's shite'), for example – and a number of successful stylistic flourishes, with McGee's breakdown particularly well-conveyed. If the execution suits the subject, its short scenes and endless location shifts make it exhausting to watch. The framing device of an interview with American journalist Gemma (played by Suki Waterhouse), which sees McGee casting his mind back over his career, can feel trite, but it does give the film a bit of structure and allows for exposition, reflection, and a few welcome breathers from the madcap action.
Yet regular characters (including fellow Creation Records colleagues, played by Thomas Turgoose and an amusing Michael Socha) are barely established, while Oasis hardly feature outside of the famous gig where McGee spots and offers to sign them. Instead, supporting players are reduced to a series of cameos, which can at least be entertaining, with Jason Isaacs' film producer a highlight, and director Moran clearly having fun as Sex Pistols' manager Malcolm McLaren.
The film version of McGee isn't especially likeable, though warts-and-all probably works best here. And, in a performance that's mostly shouted and makes you worry for the actor's blood pressure, Bremner brings a suitably manic and obnoxious energy to his portrayal, believably inhabiting a man with killer instincts, who is nonetheless flying by the seat of his pants.
Available to watch on Sky Cinema from Sat 20 Mar.