24 Hour Party People
Directed by Michael Winterbottom
Starring Steve Coogan, Shirley Henderson, Andy Serkis, Sean
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.