24 Hour Party People

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The ViewDunedin Review

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Review byMatthew Turner4/04/2002

Four out of five stars
Running time: 115 mins

Funny, chaotic, sprawling film that perfectly captures the atmosphere of the time – it’s slightly too long, but it’s brimming with invention and has a terrific performance by Coogan.

British director Michael Winterbottom’s (The Claim, Wonderland) latest film is part biopic, part comedy-drama, though the story is very much of the “print the legend” variety, as even the film freely admits in places. It’s an extremely enjoyable film that has several good ideas up its sleeve, though its sprawling, chaotic nature, however appropriate, does start to wear thin by the end.

At the centre of the film is Tony Wilson (as played by Steve Coogan, who brings more than a touch of Alan Partridge to the role), a central figure in the Manchester scene, despite his regular job as a local TV reporter for Granada television. The film details the birth of the Manchester rave scene, Joy Division, New Order, the Happy Mondays, Factory records, the Hacienda nightclub and how it all went horribly, spectacularly wrong.

The film is written by Frank Cottrell Boyce, who has had similar success by playing fast and loose with the biopic format elsewhere (Hilary and Jackie). Sure enough, it is the scenes where Wilson talks to the camera (frequently addressing the audience) that are the funniest and the most effective, particularly when he talks us through the film as a film, telling us who is playing all the bit parts and explaining that “unfortunately, some scenes have been cut but they’ll probably show up on the DVD”.

Winterbottom apparently shot over 100 hours of footage, all on digital video and much of it improvised, which adds considerably to the haphazard, chaotic nature of the film, especially during the impressively recreated concert scenes.

The casting is excellent, particularly Sean Harris as Ian Curtis (the troubled lead singer of Joy Division, who committed suicide) and Danny Cunningham as Shaun Ryder.

The rest of the cast is filled out with a host of familiar TV faces, such as Lennie James, John Thomson, Peter Kay, Rob Brydon and Simon Pegg, as well as more familiar actors such as Paddy Considine (Last Resort), Shirley Henderson (Topsy Turvy) and John Simm.

That said, it is Coogan’s film from start to finish, even if he does end up, as he says as “a minor character in my own story”. It’s true that there is more than a touch of Alan Partridge in the performance (Coogan has admitted as much in interviews), but in a way that is entirely appropriate, since Wilson himself often seems like a caricature of an egocentric TV presenter.

As you might expect, the soundtrack is superb and will undoubtedly bring memories flooding back to anyone who was into the music of that time.

Similarly the film is packed with memorable moments, such as: the opening scene with Wilson hang-gliding for a TV report (“Icarus. That’s all I’m saying. If you don’t get the reference, that’s fine.”); Shaun Ryder and Bez poisoning pigeons and watching them fall out of the sky; Wilson showing his wife committing ‘revenge adultery’ in the club toilet, then immediately admitting that both his wife and the man she was with deny that it ever happened; Ian Curtis (and later Bez) dancing on stage and so on.

The only real problem with the film is that it runs out of steam before the end – it could easily be a good 15 minutes shorter and would probably be a stronger film for a judicious last-minute edit. Still, there’s a lot to enjoy and for the most part it’s a funny, energetic, chaotic and well-acted tour through recent musical and cultural history. Recommended.

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24 Hour Party People
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Content updated: 14/12/2018 06:49

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