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Josh Slater-Williams

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Creation Stories – first-look review

This muddled biopic of music industry figurehead Alan McGee features some truly disastrous cameo appearances.

The spirit of executive producer Danny Boyle looms large over Creation Stories, a biopic of Scottish businessman Alan McGee, whose influential Creation Records label launched such acts as Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine and Oasis. Trainspotting seems a conscious influence on director Nick Moran’s film, from the editing style and frenetic pacing to Irvine Welsh being one of its screenwriters. The presence of Ewen Bremner as McGee only hammers home the connection.

But there’s another filmmaker looming over Creation Stories. Someone who also made a largely comedic, self-reflexive biopic concerning a British record label head who was inspired by seeing Sex Pistols perform, which covered a similar period of time: Michael Winterbottom. Speeding through three decades’ worth of events but lacking any actual momentum, Creation Stories is like a version of 24 Hour Party People gone horribly wrong.

In a 2019 interview with NME, McGee mentioned that the film would take some liberties in adapting his autobiography, specifically highlighting the inclusion of a reconciliatory reunion with his father (played by Skids frontman Richard Jobson), who he apparently hasn’t actually spoken to in many years. That creative choice is indicative of Moran and screenwriters Welsh and Dean Cavanagh wanting to make McGee’s story palatable to the widest audience possible.

With that in mind, the narrative rabbit holes the film ventures down prove especially baffling. One example is a sequence that is neither remotely compelling nor humorous, in which McGee, at the height of his mid-’90s drug problems, spends a night cruising around Los Angeles with an unbearable film producer acquaintance (Jason Isaacs). Earlier, a drug-induced vision of noted occultist Aleister Crowley (Steven Berkoff) hangs out with McGee in a bathroom; this is in no way relevant to the rest of the film.

Hallucinations, played for both tragic and ostensibly comic purposes, are a recurring motif, though none is quite so jarring as when the film abruptly switches from Leo Flanagan as a young McGee to Bremner playing him while he’s still meant to be in his early twenties. Contributions from the supporting cast amount to single-scene appearances by familiar faces (Ed Byrne as Alastair Campbell, Jason Flemyng as a promoter), some of whom Moran has worked with as an actor – the director pops up himself, too, playing Malcolm McLaren like a haunted scarecrow.

The manipulation of McGee and Oasis in the election of Tony Blair drives much of the third act, which leads to the most discombobulating ‘cameo’ of the entire film. Trying to pin down the new Prime Minister at Chequers for a chat about helping unemployed musicians, McGee is horrified by the presence of Jimmy Savile (Alistair McGowan) cosying up to the leader. It’s framed as McGee’s dawning realisation that New Labour might be a con, having apparently heard credible rumours of Saville’s predatory sexual abuse through music industry associates.

Considering that McGee’s actual autobiography suggests he “had no idea [Savile] was a nonce, just a dirty old fucker”, it comes across as a forced, uncomfortable mea culpa for simply having met the man once.

Published 24 Feb 2021

Tags: Alan McGee Creation Records Creation Stories Ewen Bremner Glasgow Film Festival Nick Moran

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