24 Hour Party People


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

24 Hour Party People
"What the film achieves, better than any other rock music movie, is how unorganised and stupid so much of what went on behind the scenes was."

For those who think pop stars are gods and Joy Division's Ian Curtis, who hung himself in a fit of ennui, was a genius should quietly move away. This film is not for them.

What director Michael Winterbottom and TV chat host Alan Partridge (aka comedian Steve Coogan) have done with the Manchester club scene in the late Seventies and Eighties is irreverent, honest, crazy in a dumb druggy kind of way and oddly original. Alan/Steve plays Tony Wilson, a Cambridge educated smartarse, who works for Granada TV as a reporter on the local news magazine.

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He likes to talk to camera and give his opinion on how he's feeling and whether that last bit of film was made up, or not. When Shawn and Paul Ryder, later to become Happy Mondays, poison a flock of pigeons on the roof, he interjects to say, yes, that did happen, but maybe not quite like that. Later, he announces, at the height of The Mondays' popularity, "Shawn Ryder is on a par with W B Yates as a poet," to which one of his colleagues adds, "That's surprising, since everyone else thinks he's a f***ing idiot."

Wilson saw the light when he went to a Sex Pistols gig before punk was invented. There were 30-odd people there, but as he said afterwards, "How many people were at the Last Supper?" For him, this expression of raw energy and outrageous attitude was new, fresh and aggressive. After flower power, New Romantics and Glam Rock, it was time to let the dogs out.

He started Factory Records with a temperamental, allegedly brilliant producer, and signed up a bunch of serious-looking nerds, who belted out dark, depressing songs. After much controversy - the name was used by Nazis to mean sex with Jewish slaves - the band was called Joy Division. The rest is... history. Or, to bring it up to date, New Order.

He ran a club to highlight his groups and then splashed out on a warehouse-sized building, The Hacienda, which someone said looked like a public toilet. Noone came at first, but later, when Happy Mondays were huge, it became a legend and then the drug dealers moved in and there were guns and people were killed and it didn't seem like fun any more.

What the film achieves, better than any other rock music movie, is how unorganised and stupid so much of what went on behind the scenes was. Wilson, in his suit and tie - "I've seen you on the telly," an old woman in the street remarks, "always look so smart" - dropping aphorisms and making learned statements that don't mean anything - "The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom" - appears somehow above it all, neither in control, nor off his face. His first wife (Shirley Henderson) leaves him, because he doesn't take enough interest. His second wife is a beauty queen, which is quite a surprise. He admits it himself.

Coogan is wonderful as Wilson, but the problem is, who's playing the role? Steve or Alan?

Reviewed on: 04 Apr 2002
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24 Hour Party People packshot
The short history of Madchester and the club scene, with Steve Coogan as Tony Wilson.
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Director: Michael Winterbottom

Writer: Frank Cottrell Boyce

Starring: Steve Coogan, Shirley Henderson, Andy Serkis, Sean Harris, Paul Popplewell, John Simm, Christopher Eccleston

Year: 2002

Runtime: 105 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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