Archive for May, 2013

01
May
13

Party Monster

Party Monster (Bailey & Barbato, 2003) –

In my junior year of high school, we had to pick a word and write a paper about it. My classmates chose to write about hope and happiness and humor…I choose narcissism. Why? Because I was weird. And because I was fascinated by the concept of a self obsession that ran so deep, someone would not even consider the idea that that a situation was not about them. That is the type of person I think of when considering famed Club Kid and murderer Michael Alig, played surprising well by former child actor Macaulay Culkin in the 2003 film Party Monster. This feature, based on true story, chronicles the rise and fall of Alig within the 1980s and 90s underground club scene, culminating in a sickening crime. In March of 1996, Michael Alig and Robert “Freeze” Riggs murdered acquaintance and drug dealer Andre “Angel” Melendez over a dispute involving a drug debt owed to Melendez. While circumstances surrounding the murder are messy and drugs were involved, we are still unable to forgive Alig’s actions. This surprisingly does not mean that he is not an enjoyable character to watch. Alig is charming, self-absorbed and gets what he wants. This brings me back to my narcissism discussion. It is not so much that Michael simply wants to get his way, but more so that he refuses to accept that there are any other options. In a sense, this is what makes us like him. We as humans are drawn to confidence and Culkin’s Alig oozes it with every word he utters. Ultimately, however, this is also his downfall. Do we feel sorry for Alig? Eh…not really. The filmmakers want to present his troubled childhood and everything he loses near the climax of the film as reasons why he ended up committing his crime. However, for every scene attempting to humanize Michael, there are several that present him casually throwing friends and acquaintances under the bus for personal gain, smirking every step of the way. Of course the main element that keeps us from identifying with his “struggles” is that he took a life and that cannot be changed. I do not believe in a completely black and white way of thinking by any means, but when you find out the gruesome details of what happened, I don’t think you’ll be able to sympathize with Alig. So, do I like this film? Honestly, yes. It is clearly low budget and the tight framings are not great to look at, but there are many things to be fond of. The performances are entertaining, the club scene presented in it is quite fun, and I really enjoy the creative juxtaposition of comedy, drama and horror. It also helps that we are presented with something of a middle man to identify with in James St. James (Seth Green), a friend of Alig and the writer of the book Party Monster was based on, Disco Bloodbath. James offers us a relatable character who watches his friend’s spiraling downfall with us and ultimately expresses our own horror when Michael’s crime is revealed. While the film tries a bit to give justifiable reasoning behind the murder of Melendez, it primarily recognizes the “monster” within Alig and never goes so far as the side with him. It is also important for me to once again note that I do understand that this is based on a true story. Many of the events (or perhaps most) they are presenting did actually happen so not every problem I have with the film can be attributed to the movie itself. In the end, this movie has its flaws but it is definitely the most “fun” movie about murder I have ever seen and is definitely worth a watch, if only for Culkin’s wildly entertaining portrayal of the narcissistic and terrifying Michael Alig.

References:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Alig

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