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2004 Mini Reviews

24 Hour Party People (2002)

24 Hour Party People
Directed by Michael Winterbottom
Starring Steve Coogan, Shirley Henderson, Andy Serkis, Sean Harris
Running time: 117 mins

24 Hour Party People is about two significant musical explosions to originate in Manchester, U.K. It all began with a live performance by the Sex Pistols during the late seventies. In that audience happened to be several people who would be decisive in leading the local music community for years to come, and thus would influence pop-alternative music around the globe. It was a vibrant, magical time.

The rating I give this film probably doesn't do justice to my feelings towards it. I loved this film, but it really appeals to my interest more than it would most peoples. I knew going in that it was about 80s music, and that it started with the Sex Pistols, but I didn't know much more beyond that. I was in for quite a surprise. It was about the Madchester music movements, both of which I have been a fan. In fact, I have done a bit of scholarship on the subject, and they are somewhat related to another long-term project I have been working on. For that reason I really enjoyed the film and watched it twice consecutively.

I have to come to terms with the fact that the movie does contain some flaws. It is overly ambitious, has a mistaken identity, and has the wrong point of attention. On the other hand, it has some good performances, is wildly entertaining, and it does paint a detailed picture of Underground pop culture. I probably enjoyed the film a lot more than I give it credit for, but that all comes from my own personal bias.

The Manchester scene as a whole is just too much to cover with much detail in a 2-hour picture. The film does fine portraying the two central bands -- Joy Division and The Happy Mondays -- but in the process we lose a lot of the chronology, and the supporting characters are really not paid much attention to.

The biggest problem I have is that I think the film would have been a lot more effective as a documentary. First of all, Tony Wilson is just not an interesting enough character to carry the film all the way, and while he was there and had a hand in both movements, he really was not "part of it", if you know what I mean. The movie ends up playing as a biopic for Wilson, while Joy Division and Happy Mondays are given attention just because he was more involved with them. Yet at times, the music is on display, and this is when the film is at its best, but the Wilson narrative just kills it. Given proper treatment, a Madchester documentary would be fascinating, but a Wilson biopic without the interesting stories of the bands would be flat out dull. Even Wilson admits that the film is essentially about the music and he is an unnecessary device to forward the plot. It would have been better if they eliminated the middleman and let the music be the central character.

Score: 6/10