24 Hour Party People (2002)

24 Hour Party People (2002)

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Knowing me Steve Coogan, knowing you Madchester... Aha.
Knowing me Steve Coogan, knowing you Madchester… Aha.

Twitter Plot Summary: The history of Factory Records, Tony Wilson and the bands who began their careers there.

Genre: Biography/Comedy/Drama

Director: Michael Winterbottom

Key Cast: Steve Coogan, Lennie James, John Thomson, Shirley Henderson, Paddy Considine, John Simm, Andy Serkis, Ralph Little, Peter Kay, Rob Brydon, Simon Pegg, Keith Allen.

Five Point Summary:

1. This is one instance where breaking the fourth wall is acceptable.
2. I think that’s Christopher Eccleston… yep, it is.
3. Spot the northern actor or comedian. You’ll be here all day.
4. The Hacienda closes with a promise of looting and destruction. Nice.
5. Coogan went a bit Partridge for a moment there…

Whilst I’m on a bit of a Steve Coogan run with the release of Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, I’ve recently sat down to watch 24 Hour Party People for the first time. The focus of the story is Steve Coogan as Tony Wilson, who sets up a record label with friends and starts signing a number of bands who would go on to mega stardom (New Order and the Happy Mondays to name but two). As freely admitted throughout the film, the story we are presented with is a mixture of fact, legend and the screenwriter’s own input for dramatic purposes.

Director Michael Winterbottom opted to shoot the film in documentary style, using digital video to give it a retro feel, and including lots of handheld camerawork in that time honoured tradition of creating a bit of energy. Throw in a smattering of psychedelic graphics and you have a visual (and somewhat anarchic) representation of the music scene in Manchester from the punk era onwards.

There’s fun to be had spotting a number of northern actors and comedians in supporting roles. There’s also a long number of people who were directly involved in the music scene who crop up in cameo roles as well. It can knock you out of the story a little when you spot these famous faces, but seeing as characters frequently break the fourth wall and there’s already a subtext of anarchy to proceedings, it’s not long before you’re straight back into it. With this amount of talent in the film the acting’s spot on and full of gags. It might be a little too northern for some tastes, admittedly, but if you rate the film down for that then you’re completely missing the point.

Spot the famous face... oh.
Spot the famous face… oh.

I wouldn’t say there’s a huge amount of depth to proceedings, it feels like a surface-level interpretation of events without really delving too much into the reasons behind them. Wilson, via Steve Coogan, even describes himself within the film as a minor character in his own story, clearly defining that this is all about the music and the scene rather than the people who experienced it. With that said, the Hacienda (Factory Records’ nightclub) is a character in itself, a physical manifestation of all that was good and all that was bad about the scene.

As a celebration of music, it’s very good. Other than a couple of the bands featured, specifically New Order, I’m not a big fan of the “Madchester” scene, although I appreciate the music on the whole and the contribution those artists made to the UK music scene. It also helps that it’s an entertaining bit of cinema, if not a 100% true adaptation of actual events. Whimsical interludes including flying saucers and God talking to Tony Wilson go some way to pointing out that it’s not entirely based in reality. Or, you know, it could just be the drugs they were all taking. That would explain it. In any case, it’s a Coogan/Winterbottom collaboration and thus it is worth your time.

Favourite scene: Andy Serkis puts the drummer up on the roof and leaves him playing. Everybody goes home.

Quote: “You were right about Mick Hucknall. His music’s rubbish and he’s a ginger.”

Silly Moment: Any moment where Coogan breaks the fourth wall.

Score: 4/5

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