Party Monster – A movie that might have been a little too ahead of its time.
If I were to say this movie was ahead of its time, you’d probably roll your eyes at me. I can’t really blame you because this one isn’t for everybody and definitely not every critic. Unless you have a love for electronic music and cult films, Monster Party can be hard to digest. Within the first ten minutes, I felt as if I was watching a parody of the made-for-tv biopics that were so popular during the 90s; coincidentally, the era which this film takes place. This movie was released in 2003, several years after Michael Alig was convicted. Even though I’m a huge electronic music fan, I never heard of Party Monster and never would have if I didn’t scroll through my girlfriend’s recommended movies on Netflix. I kinda-sorta knew who Michael Alig was, what he was known for, and what he was convicted of but didn’t know there was a movie (or book, for that matter) on the ordeal… and nor did I ever think I would see Macaulay Caulkin and Seth Green together in drag.
“I’m not addicted to drugs, I’m addicted to glamor.”
The thing this movie does the best is capture the cheesy 90s with its mise-en-scene. The costumes, sets/shooting locations, and shots. It may not be perfect and I doubt the directors intentionally made this movie seem like a 90’s made-for-tv biopic but the feeling is there, accidental or not. It is nowhere on the level of The Artist, when it comes to capturing film style of another era, but its nostalgic entertainment factor was there for me. This (possibly unintentional) gimmick also works for Party Monster in some parts too. Some examples include the trashy, live New York talk show and when the local news covers one of their parties. Not saying their transitions are fluid but it helps reinforce the “hey, this is the nineties” atmosphere; something that was probably too early for people to register on when it was released in ’03. Another thing that made me feel that the made-for-tv cheese was intentional is how boldly the direction switches during the drug hallucination scenes. They might have been stereotypical with the fast cuts, fish eyed lenses, and unsettling shot positions, but they did break that 90’s made-for-tv mold where drugs are typically portrayed as dark and eerie. It would have been too much if it went down that path and it probably wouldn’t have aged into “cult status” like it has today.
How to be Fabulous by Seth Green
My major confusion is whether this is supposed to be a parody or homage to 90s cheese–if it really is intentional. Another thing that leads me to thinking so is when John St. John (Seth Green) makes a comment towards the end of the film saying Michael Alig (Macaulay Caulkin) was making the movie seem like an after school special, spiking the camera right when he says it. I also feel that my uncertainty of this is drawn from how it ended. I was left wanting more; arguably what all the characters wanted throughout Party Monster: excess. Party Monster is such a twisted, charismatic movie that being left with nothing was probably the only way it could end.
What would go great with this ?
Critic Value: 8/10 for me, 4-6/10 for most.
It’s not a film for all critics. If you don’t know anything about the subcultures depicted in this film, you’re not going to really get the “dangers of excess” message. But if you do get it, I doubt you’ll get all of it with just one viewing.
Quality Value: 6/10
It feels low budget but in the end it worked in its favor.
Entertainment Value: 8/10
I felt really engaged through this whole movie. Macaulay Caulkin plays Michael Alig without you ever questioning it; even James St. James admitted this in an interview when asked about his opinion on the casting of the two main roles. It’s campiness is also a contributing factor to the entertainment value, as well as its cult status.