Two decades after the house-music rave scene touched the lives of a generation of young hedonists, the search for a definitive bigscreen tribute continues with the early-1990s-set “Weekender.” Latest low-budget feature from Dublin-born Karl Golden sees a pair of amateur hustlers from Manchester graduate from petty thieves to illegal party organizers before falling in with an opportunistic criminal gang. A modest-size nostalgic aud should come along for the ride following the pic’s Edinburgh debut, at least in native Blighty. Attracting a younger generation of club kids to this generic tale will prove more problematic.
Considering house music’s far-reaching impact, worthwhile film representations have been few and far between. Michael Winterbottom’s “24 Hour Party People” (2002), also set in Manchester, captured the scene as part of its lively chronicle of seminal record label Factory. Justin Kerrigan’s fondly remembered “Human Traffic” (1999) eschewed origin-story nostalgia, opting instead for a celebration of a lost weekend in Cardiff, Wales.
Actor-turned-scribe Chris Coghill (who had a small role in “24 Hour Party People”) opts for a conventional scenario: Pals Dylan (Jack O’Connell, from the British TV series “Skins”) and Matt (Henry Lloyd-Hughes, TV’s “The Inbetweeners”) seek to live their dream, in this instance as promoters of their “Valhalla” warehouse parties. Hurdles include finding a venue, a DJ (Tom Meeten as the appropriately named Captain Acid), security and a supply of mood-brightening pharmaceuticals. Less-than-riveting early scenes may squeak by with an indulgent aud, happy to spot familiar tunes and era-appropriate casual attire.
Plot perks up with the arrival of Londoner Gary Mac (Stephen Wight), who invites the boys to sunny Ibiza to show them what club hedonism is really all about. Significant conflict is belatedly introduced in the form of John the Rat (Ben Batt), a local thug who muscles his way into the Valhalla operation, driving a wedge between idealistic Matt and cocaine-abusing Dylan. The gravitational pull of Matt’s girlfriend (Emily Barclay, “In My Father’s Den”) further tests the pair’s friendship.
Despite O’Connell’s natural charisma, increasingly idiotic Dylan is hard to care about, while Lloyd-Hughes’ Matt, who briefly narrates, proves an unexceptional point of identification. Despite having been apparently inspired by fables from clubland’s rich history, several plot-points fail to convince, while the film lacks the wild energy that might more easily permit instances of “print the legend” embroidering. Contributing the most vivid character, and the most persuasively interesting performance, is Batt as the quietly menacing John.
Tech contributions occasionally betray limited coin, but are strong where it counts in the party scenes, which also benefit from tunes selected by music supervisors Ian Neil and Terry Farley, the latter a star DJ of the era. Budget permitted excursions to both Andalucia and Amsterdam, helpfully placing the tale in a broader European context.