24 Hour Party People Movie Review

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Like most art forms, music is complimentary, or commentary, for the age in which it is presented. Analogous to painting, the moving image, and literature -- the great arts we all lean on for sympathy and entertainment -- we find ourselves attracted to what we relate to or wish for, and end up with extra propulsion to go forward based on the experience. What better way to get a glimpse of creativity and encouragement to keep pushing forward with it than by presenting it on screen through a charismatic narrator in half-documentary, half-storytelling fashion?

This is exactly what Michael Winterbottom's 24 Hour Party People does, depicting the path of the renowned Tony Wilson, who spearheaded names like Joy Division (later to become New Order), groups which are still held as influences to today's musicians. Mixing frenetic plot with a vérité slant, we see the punk and rave movements evolve through the admirably hard-working, but ultimately self-defeating, energy with which Wilson built Factory Records.

Pulsating through various stereotypes of the time (e.g. sex and drugs) to give a glimpse of lifestyle, 24 Hour's stylistic camera works because the main focus always diverts back to the music and the people that made it happen. Of course, what makes musicians rise is having an audience, and an audience creates a "scene" which a film crew produces by its presence (a la any MTV beach party scene). Artists can be difficult and blow your money on drugs instead of finishing the vocals they were supposed to. Your studio engineer is a raging alcoholic who tries to shoot you, but he lays tracks in such a way that you're surprised the band can sound that good. Whatever the troubles or economic improbabilities, the finished product boosts your pride enough to go and do it again.

Further to the entertaining honesty with which Winterbottom holds his subject, and against the tradition of the misunderstood and alienated but brilliant artist, Tony is never shown to be angelic based on his passions: asking a hooker to finish off a blowjob after his wife has caught him in the act, or blatantly using money made from a band to cover the Hacienda's expenses. His extreme arrogance about his intelligence would push the limits of annoyance if his absolute love for what he does weren't so contagious. Neither does it hurt that his nose for talent, or upcoming popularity, appears to have been impeccable. You like him, and enjoy following his escapades, even if you can't condone his actions.

The only element difficult to keep track of is how Tony has been able to accomplish his feats. He's seen talking to a club owner into the first night gigs, and it's known he has a paying job as a television personality, but what went into the actual struggle to get the material of these bands made? Maybe it's as easy as renting recording equipment and space, or calling in favors as you do on no-budget feature films, but the actual motions of accomplishment are soon lost in the next hilarious moment of Tony luckily winning against his odds.

But luck won't pull you through everything, and 24 Hour shows the degeneration of Factory Records with the same hyper aplomb that it grants the rest of the story. So while this possibly fictionalized journey through an era may have its foundations in the music industry, there's plenty of entertainment to cross several audience boundaries.

Let's get this party started.

Subscribe Steve Coogan


24 Hour Party People Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: R, 2002


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