Review: 24 Hour Party People
It’s hard not to equate 24 Hour Party People with Hedwig And The Angry Inch. They’re inventive, witty and fun films, and they both die in the last act. Hedwig heads south when Heddy longs for love while 24 Hour Party People withers on the rave vine.
The story of Manchester, UK’s Factory Records and its founder, lovable fop Tony Wilson, 24 Hour Party People is front-loaded with whimsical scenes, nonlinear story-telling and neat effects. Steve Coogan is wonderful as Wilson, an erudite putz who builds a thriving music scene for art’s sake alone. Real clips of The Sex Pistols, Iggy, Siouxie, The Jam and The Stranglers help visualize the revolution in music that gave birth to the Manchester scene of The Buzzcocks and Joy Division. Real and Memorex Sex Pistols mix to recreate the show that launched a thousand Mancunian ships (as it were).
Sean Harris looks a lot like Ian Curtis even though he does have a chin. I was expecting an immediate epileptic seizure but it took 37 minutes to get to the Ian Curtis money shot.
At 117 minutes the film is a long 27 minutes too long. If you watch this up to the demise of Joy Division you’ll have a great time and nobody gets hurt. When rave rears its trippy head the film loses its charm and becomes a lesson in exponential stupidity.
Many music scenes have drug cultures attached to them. A few drug cultures have their own music scenes. Reggae’s what happened to Ska when pot slowed down the mind and reflexes. I like Reggae. Ecstasy brought with it rave which allowed horrid bands like The Happy Mondays to record white soul dance crap. I like when Ravers drive off cliffs.
Rave provides the last euphoric high and catatonic low of Factory Records, and the demise is laid out like a police procedural. Wilson reveals himself to be both impotent and morally indifferent, a quasi-Buddhist approach big with intellectuals (Bowie comes to mind).
The first half of 24 Hour Party People is great. The second half pretends the slide to oblivion was fun while it lasted. If you like rave you might agree. I don’t.