It’s a Party! Celebrating Two Years of Friday Film Review with 24 Hour Party People

24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE (2002)

Starring: Steve Coogan

Written by: Frank Cottrell Boyce

Directed by: Michael Winterbottom

Distributed by: Pathe and United Artists

117 minutes

Open the  champagne sweetie darlings, this week marks the two year anniversary of Friday Film Review on Forget the Box! This week to celebrate this milestone  I want to talk about 24 hour party people, a film by one of my all time favourite actor/director pairings, Steve Coogan and Michael Winterbottom.

24 hour party people follows  real-life Tony Wilson and his evolution from television journalist to media mogul who produced some of Manchester’s most successful bands. Wilson was the first journalist to put a little band you may have heard of called The Sex Pistols on television, and after co-founding Factory Records helped introduce the world to Joy Division (as well as the re-formed New Order after Ian Curtis’s death).

The film is technically a bio-pic of Wilson, but Steve Coogan and Michael Winterbottom don’t do “formula” films. And god bless the boys for it. As Wilson, Coogan continually breaks the fourth wall by talking directly to the camera and commenting on the characters and scenes.

This is used brilliantly in one scene where Wilson catches his first wife Lindsey (Shirley Henderson) having sex with someone in a bathroom stall. As he leaves the bathroom Wilson turns to the audience and says “The real Lindsey wanted to make it clear that this didn‘t actually happen. But I say when faced between printing the truth and the myth, always  print the myth.” Winterbottom always manages to bring out Coogan’s sharpest, wittiest line readings and therefore no matter how ridiculous the material (Tristam Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story anyone?) Their films are always amusing to watch.

While the film is totally worth watching for Coogan‘s performance alone, there is that other little thing that drives you to this story. Its not the sex or the drugs, although not shockingly, there’s plenty of that. As  Wilson says when he‘s explaining why the film skipped over his entire second marriage “Honestly I’m a minor character in my own story. This film is about the music”.

For the Tony Wilson of 24 hour party people he doesn’t give two craps about making money, what he cares about is to help create and spread good music.The Sex Pistols, Joy Division, the Happy Mondays, this film really is a love letter to punk music. To all the people, the parties, the drugs that made that time in Manchester possible. Punk is messy, violent, completely batshit insane; and yet you‘d be completely crazy to deny its enormous influence on music history.

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