Director: Michael Winterbottom
Starring: Steve Coogan, John Thomson, Lennie James, Paddy Considine, Shirley Henderson
Runtime: 117 minutes
Michael Winterbottom isn’t a name I hear very often, but I am very familiar with his two most popular films A Cock and Bull Story (which I haven’t yet had the chance to see) and 2011’s The Trip, which was one of my favorite films of that year. I had always heard that Winterbottom’s 24 Hour Party People is one of the most underrated films of the 2000’s, and I must say that I was fairly disappointed when the credits rolled, especially after adoring The Trip.
24 Hour Party people is about legendary head of Factory Records, Tony Wilson (played by Steve Coogan), a punk rock/new wave music label in 1980’s and 90’s Manchester. Along the way, he signs artists like Joy Division (later New Order), A Certain Ratio, and Happy Mondays, and many ups and downs with all parties, including the suicide of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis. Tony Wilson and company experience success with the rise in popularity of punk rock and rave culture, and eventually the group opens a club of sorts.
Unfortunately, I don’t think that the film lived up to its true potential for quite a few reasons: The supporting cast was muddled, with many characters coming and going as the script saw fit, and Steve Coogan, while being a very versatile leading man, just didn’t have a whole lot to work with in the film, especially comedically. He manages to carry many of the films darker and more serious scenes, but one actor alone couldn’t make 24 Hour Party People live up to the hype for me. I understand that his character is meant to be more of a spectator to the events going on around him (“I’m a minor character in my own story”), but it really detracts from the film and makes it feel like there is no weight to any of the dark situations he’s encountering. Giving the film a central character with some sort of real development or maturity would have greatly benefitted it in the end.
The music in the film is terrific, as is the atmosphere of 1980’s Manchester. Everything felt accurate and believable in this respect, even though I don’t have a lot of knowledge of the time period, and specifically of the punk rock movement in the city. Despite sometimes being slightly confusing, the supporting cast did feature a host of familiar faces, including Andy Serkis, Rob Brydon, Simon Pegg, Sean Harris, and Peter Kay. The film was often very funny, but I certainly wouldn’t call it a full-blown comedy because of the various dark situations Tony Wilson and Factory Records deal with and live through. I felt at times that the heavy stylization of the film’s editing often worked against the film, almost to the point of distraction. The effects and editing techniques used here simply don’t seem to have aged well, and it was a huge turn off to me. Though there were a lot of things about 24 Hour Party People that didn’t work for me, I still had a lot of fun while viewing this, and I’m glad that I finally got around to seeing it. If it had been a more polished and consistent film, it could have been phenomenal. 7/10.