24 Hour Party People
with Steve Coogan, Lennie James, John Thomson
Directed by Michael Winterbottom
Written by Frank Cottrell Boyce
(MGM Home Video)
by Chad Van Wagner
For fans only, but those fans are in for a major treat. British comedian Steve Coogan plays Factory Records mainman Tony Wilson, a droll, upper-crust educated huckster whose label served as the launching pad for some of the most successful and important musical acts of the last two decades (Joy Division, New Order, and, in the UK at least, the Happy Mondays). What drives the film is not the narrative so much as the easy, slightly oily charm of Coogan/Wilson, as he tries to maintain a gentlemanly demeanor amongst the egos (Ian Curtis), insanity (Martin Hannett, played with relish by Gollum himself, Andy Serkis), and plain old drugged-out stupidity (the Happy Monday’s Shaun Ryder). The excesses are there, the clashes are there, but this is mostly the Tony Wilson story.
As stated before, the film is for fans only. This is due to director Michael Winterbottom’s background-less approach to the historical figures within: Unless you know who in the hell bands like A Certain Ratio are, much of the film will seem a bit incoherent. It’s like looking through the photo album of someone you don’t know; it might be amusing, but you’re going to miss something.
Particularly refreshing is the decision to have Coogan speak directly to the audience whilst in the middle of the action (he even refers to a scene that didn’t make the final cut of the film: “It’ll be on the DVD”). It reflects the self-effacing what-the-hell attitude of both the film and its protagonist, and keeps the feeling of being on the “inside” going, long after the novelty wears off. Now, where’s that Buzzcocks movie?