Tony Wilson (Steve Coogan), from what most people thought, was just another TV anchor forced to do stories on wild animals and old people. But little did some of them know that, after all of the filming was done, Wilson was also a prominent agent for some of the biggest and best British bands of the early-punk and Madchester scene that spanned from the late-70’s, to the early-90’s. Not only did Wilson make the likes of the Sex Pistols, Joy Division, New Order, and the Happy Mondays big names in the music biz, but he also help pave the way for how most night clubs should be able to handle these bands while, at the same time, still make a profit. But aside from the business aspect, Wilson also encountered some issues in his personal life, whether he was bouncing from girl-to-girl, drug-to-drug, or band-to-band, he always remained focused on making the music his first and only priority. Even if, occasionally, the bands themselves were a bit too much to handle. But no matter what, Wilson always relied on something to get him through even the biggest hurdles: Drugs. And wow, a whole lot of them, too.
What’s perhaps the most interesting element of 24 Hour Party People that not only sets it apart from the rest of the musical biopic genre, but also enlivens things, too, is the fact that every so often, Wilson turns to the camera, lets us know what’s going on, what legend has said about a certain incident and mostly, just given his own voice and opinion on things. Not only does this make the movie self-aware, but it also helps make us realize that Wilson, despite his many negative personality-traits, is an honest and relatively understanding human being. However, what’s most interesting about what director Michael Winterbottom does here is that he doesn’t ever give us the full focus on Wilson’s life, even though that’s kind of expected.
Case in point, try the one scene where Wilson meets his ex-wife and child; while we’re expecting it to be a heartfelt, albeit sappy scene trying to make us see and understand Wilson as this kind, loving and caring human being, Wilson then talks to the audience, lets us know that he does have a kid, but also reminds us that this story isn’t wholly about him. In fact, it’s about the music he helped discover and bring to the masses, the parties that constantly arose, and just why it all matters these many years later.
And for that reason, 24 Hour Party People‘s kind of a blast.
Though Winterbottom has a hard task of trying to get the whole Madchester music scene into a near-two-hour-long film, without making it seem like he’s forgotten about anyone important, he somehow is able to make it all come together. Most of this has to do with the fact that Wilson’s constant narration and breaking of the fourth-wall, actually helps us connect the dots; some may say that it’s spoon-feeding the audience and pointing out the obvious, but I look at it as a way of Winterbottom letting us know that, don’t worry, no matter how many bands or names come into the foray here, he’ll still help us out. After all, the Madchester music scene was a crazy one, and if you don’t already know all of the bands and acts going into it, you’ll more than likely get lost in all the havoc and craziness.
Thankfully, like I said, Wilson’s narration helps us all out. And due to this, the movie’s a whole lot of fun. As usual with Coogan’s productions, there’s a lot of humor that comes out of some very dark and serious situations, while at the same time, the movie doesn’t forget about the harsh realities that this music scene brought on. Of course, with the movie featuring Joy Division, it’s obvious that they’d shine a light on Ian Curtis and his suicide, but other than that, there’s still plenty of other sad things that happen. People break-up, people get back together, people gain fame, people lose it, and most of all, people lose sight of their humanity.
But no matter what 24 Hour Party People is entertaining.
Maybe it’s not as heavy as it should have been, but considering it’s a musical biopic that doesn’t try to preach any ideas about drug addiction, or fame, or money, it’s definitely “different”, for lack of a better term. Yes, it’s funny, but it’s also got a nice bit of insight into how the world of music works, how people get into place when a certain craze is beginning to take over, and just how easy it is for people to get wrapped up in all of it. Though Wilson loves good music, first and foremost, he also loves money and making plenty of it, which is why it’s neat to see his perspective on what one has to do to ensure that their nightclub makes as much profit as it should. While this definitely takes the movie away from the music, and more towards the business of what went on around it, it still adds up to creating this whole scene and why it was so great to be apart of.
And like I made a mention of before, Coogan is definitely a fine source for us to follow and see all of this happen around. Coogan’s great at playing level-headed a-holes, but here, there’s a bit more to Wilson that makes him seem more humane than usual. Still though, this movie isn’t a biopic on his life, as much as it’s about all those countless bands and people he met, which is why the ensemble has some of the finest heavy-hitters in England. The likes of Paddy Considine, Sean Harris, Andy Serkis (not in mo-cap gear), Lennie James, Shirley Henderson, and of course, plenty more, all give their two cents here, are fun, lively and round out a party worth being apart of and checking out.
Even if, you know, you didn’t get an invitation to it in the first place.
Consensus: With a smart, attentive eye to detail and facts, 24 Hour Party People isn’t just an insightful piece, but also a very funny, exciting film that perfectly captures the Madchester scene, the bands and all the other people who are alive and well during its reign.
8 / 10