Generation X have been faced with a difficult decision. It’s of the sort impossible to shy away from; the sort that might affect families for generations to come. While some friends have voted one way, declaring their decision as irrefutable, others are reaching for the sick bucket, or rather Sick Boy. In such divisive times it’s hard to find middle ground. On one hand you have La la Land, which has the charm of a singing box of milk chocolates, while on the other you have a return to the adrenaline soaked underworld of Trainspotting 2.
As an alternative choice someone suggested Manchester by sea, declaring it as an emotional gut punch of a film, ‘though not many dance routines. He made it sound like latter day Take That.
The sequel to Trainspotting has taken a while, as Danny Boyle wisely waited for his cast to look older enough. In Hollywood this can mean a long time, and Euan Mcgregor’s career-requiring youthfulness is even referred to by the enigmatic Sick Boy.
John Lee Miller inhabits his hair-bleached role like it’s god-given, but from the loafers up he’s a legend in his own mind, even if his bedraggled pub suggests that he might want to take a closer look.
Euan McGregor, while not as bad as his cardboard Obi Wan, is acted off screen by the others. Mostly by Ewen Bremner, who’s Spud was the heart of the first film and the soul of this. Trainspotting 2 somehow succeeds in being a 117 minute trailer for itself, which is quite a feat, but it’s Spud who stops the film only being an extended pop video. He’s the vulnerable anti-hero we’re all chanting for.
It’s actually better than the first film, with a new found pathos that was lacking from the youthful original. These characters have grown up. Well, perhaps not grown up, but grown older. Sadly they are not the same thing, which is what interests us. It’s not just the characters that have changed (or have they?) but Edinburgh. It’s a different time, where the brutality of the past has been replaced by Starbucks and trams. Of course Begbie remains psychopathic, although his taste in well-cut Pringle jumpers has to be admired, even if he’s likely to glass you for mentioning it.
We’re on side from the moment Mark Renton flips the vinyl record in his hands with an ease that is second nature to a now aging generation; a demographic that like all others never believed it would. There are elegant shadows of the original throughout, as an ambient version Born Slippy provokes mass soul searching throughout the cinema. What have we been doing for twenty years? Fallen in love. Given up drugs. Bought not rented. Bearded or not. Vinyl or download.
The film has been accused of lacking female characters, which is right-on bollocks, if you’ll excuse the pun. It’s a film about men struggling with the loss of youth, so why would it not focus on male characters? Anyway, there are enough females, who spend their time raising their eyebrows at men’s inability to grow up. Either that, or shafting them with strap-ons obviously.
Last time we watched this film was while coming up for air after bongs, so it’s lucky the perfectly edited flashbacks to the 1992 original negated the need for homework in re-watching it. There are even 80s songs, which the surge of Brit pop and house music had hoped to replace. The unmistakable pound of Frankie goes to Hollywood’s Relax has the surge of intent lacking from most national anthems. Meanwhile the kick of Run DMC’s It’s like that and Queen’s Radio Gaga provokes grins like supporters of La la Land also claim to have found on their faces.
That Mark Renton and Sick Boy are still having a beer at the close of Trainspotting 2 is telling. Have they grown up? Who knows, but it’s Spud who is the one who needs saving, and perhaps he is. I for one look forward to finding out, as the UK finds it’s own version of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise. See you in twenty years time.
My novel – selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 – the Life Assistance Agency is available now here – http://myBook.to/lifeassistance – read the book before it’s made into a film.