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Don't let 'Party Monster' out

| Friday, Nov. 7, 2003

The obsession of many neophyte filmmakers with the seamiest edges of human nature pollutes the landscape of independent filmmaking to a confounding degree.

Never mind entertaining or edifying. What is the attraction of stench that does not at least inform and enlighten•

How many wallows like "Wonderland" and the newly arrived "Party Monster" do we need before the filmmakers grasp a point the rest of us understood before the perpetual reinventing of the same wheel -- that chronic substance abuse and unrestrained indulgence corrupt body and soul absolutely• When is redundant enough•

Aren't such films really about an eagerness to wade in up to the filmmakers' eyeballs and sensationalize the content, presumably with their own stylized twist•

Co-writers and co-directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato based their hourlong 1998 documentary "Party Monster" on James St. James' "Disco Bloodbath." Five years later, the filmmakers are back with a new 98-minute dramatized version. What next in their dedication to its content, the ballet version•

Michael Alig (Macaulay Culkin), who in real life is doing time for murder, arrived in New York City from South Bend, Ind., more than a decade ago determined to be the new Andy Warhol, "club kid" species.

He befriends drag queen James St. James (Seth Green) and learns from him how to "be fabulous" and to be noticed at clubs, at least partly through the mastery of flamboyance. He quickly becomes James' biggest competitor for attention.

The apparently bisexual Michael persuades eye-patched Limelight club owner Peter Gatien (Dylan McDermott) into letting him promote and host a series of parties.

While Michael becomes a narcissistic legend in his own mind, which Bailey and Barbato feel the need to enhance and perpetuate, he uses his way through a sexual food chain that includes Keoki (Wilmer Valderrama) and Gitsie (Chloe Sevigny).

Along the way Michael consumes a great variety of narcotics, delights in serving his urine to James in a champagne glass -- a scene designed to amuse -- and to be involved in the murder of reputed drug dealer Angel Menendez (Wilson Cruz) by hammer and Drano injection.

There's a brief novelty in seeing former child star Culkin, in his first movie role since "Richie Rich" (1994), play a revolting character in campy high spirits, but despite his professional experience Culkin lacks the charisma to explain Michael's alleged influence as a party star.

The movie all too eagerly wants to exploit the androgynous and effeminate silly-goose aspects of the material before spiraling off for a violent climax shown from the vantage of a ... a rat•

Additional Information:

Movie Details

'Party Monster'

Director : Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato.

Stars : Macaulay Culkin, Seth Green, Chloe Sevigny.

MPAA rating : R for pervasive drug use, language and some violence.

Now playing : Denis in Mt. Lebanon.

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