What looks like a party...

Oct. 8, 2003, midnight | By Erica Hartmann | 20 years, 4 months ago

All that Jazz is a great movie. Requiem for a Dream is a great movie. But when the two have an illegitimate love child who is fascinated by the Rocky Horror Picture Show and Marilyn Manson, result is unfortunate: Party Monster.

Based the book Disco Bloodbath by James St. James, Party Monster is a story about "money, success, fame, glamour" set to spectacular 80s club music. Macaulay Culkin, who looks almost exactly the same as in Home Alone, plays Michael Alig, the new boy in town, who receives a lesson in fabulousness from the infamous James St. James (Seth Green) and swiftly becomes New York's premier party thrower. Together, Michael and James start a new movement known as the "club kids," comprised mostly of youthful, bisexual New Yorkers who dress in wild costumes and take Ecstasy, heroin and all manner of whatever.

From the start, the film is abrupt and jarring. The costumes, done magnificently by Michael Wilkinson, coupled with equally outrageous and wonderful make-up by Kabuki, loudly announce that you are in for a ride bizarre beyond telling. Party Monster also includes a Romeo and Juliet reference that would make any English teacher's insides churn, the world's worst use of fireworks as innuendo and exquisitely flaming characters, all of which affront the viewer in a fairly humorous way.

But some of the material just isn't funny. A few scenes recognize the seriousness that lurks ominously behind excessive fun, but more often the gravity of the situation is thinly masked by jests that end up being just sick. In the end, it all comes crashing down in a beautiful, drug-infested sequence that is neither funny nor sad, merely a swirling mess.

The movie fits perfectly into the description Elke Alig (Michael's mother, played by Diana Scarwid) gives of James: "a poor, pathetic, frightened little boy too scared to face reality... too fabulous." Due to that aversion, Party Monster is finally trite and meaningless, falling short where its predecessors have excelled and leaving the viewer hollow and unfulfilled.

In spite of its emptiness--or perhaps because of it--the film is not entirely unenjoyable. It will make you laugh. It is witty. It is well-written. James St. James' character is brilliant, sparring verbally against Michael's comment, "People say we're superficial," with, "We are, profoundly so."

Though 98 minutes is a lot to sit through for a film that's hardly substantial, Party Monster is not an hour and a half of solid torture. It's simply, as Michael wishes, "a world of color where everyone can play."

Party Monster runs 98 minutes, is not rated and is playing at Visions Cinema/Bistro/Lounge 1927 Florida Ave NW. For show times and more information about Visions, visit www.visionsdc.com or call (202) 667-0090.

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