Film Title: Spike Island
Director: Matt Whitecross
Starring: Elliott Tittensor, Nico Mirallegro
Running Time: 105 min
It’s 1990 and everyone’s just mad about Madchester, especially when they’re floppy-haired and Mancunian. It’s only right and proper that Tits (Elliott Tittensor) and his high-spirited mates are in thrall to The Stone Roses, a band they describe as the greatest that have ever lived and as poets of the age. And it’s only right and proper that Tits & co want to see Ian Brown’s crew play their ‘ultimate’ homecoming gig at Spike Island.
There’s more at stake than seeing the Roses live: together Tits and his undifferentiated mates – Dodge (Nico Mirallegro), Zippy (Jordan Murphy) and Gaz (Adam Long) – are Shadow Caster, a band who aspire to be the Next Big Madchester thing. Might the gig provide an opportunity to hand Mani their precious demo tape? Or will rival act The Palaver beat them to baggy glory?
Director Mat Whitecross works hard at piling on the youthful exuberance as the camera zips about hither and thither. The screenplay by Chris Coghill (Shameless) juxtaposes tall tales of excess with melancholic subplots. The young cast capture the mood with many impromptu sing-alongs and Second Summer sidesteps.
Sadly, none of this hangs together as a convincing theatrical experience. Leslie Manville puts in a sorrowful musical number to great effect, but too often the heavier narrative threads feel grafted on to wacky nonsense.
The plotting is woefully convenient. Everywhere we turn at the gig – a throng of at least 27,000 people – we run into Sally (Emilia Clarke) from down the road or Uncle Whatsits. And huh? You mean Tits and best friend Dodge both like Sally? A countdown to the event in intertitles is unnecessary and intrusive. Contemporary inauthentic Americanisms creep stealthily into the dialogue.
Spike Island does goes some way to capturing what it means to be a fan just as your idols are peaking, yet it always feels like a period Grange Hill special.
Incident after incident might be prefaced with the dread phrase “one time we took drugs and then . . .” As with all drug bore lore, you have to be there.