“24 Hour Party People” is the true story of Factory Records, the label at the front of the ’70s and ’80s New Wave movement in pop music. If you remember Joy Division, you know what the movie is talking about. If you LOVED Joy Division, the movie is your dream come true.
Casual observers of the Manchester music scene will find less to enjoy in the film, as it makes little effort to tell the story in a compelling or exciting manner. There are interesting storytelling methods, but the story itself is rather straightforward and ordinary.
Those methods save the film, though. There are more details of general interest about the movie than there are within it.
It is in the style of a documentary, directed by Michael Winterbottom and written by Frank Cottrell Boyce (this is their fifth collaboration). The look is authentic. Were it not for the film’s self-referential attitude, you could believe it was an actual documentary.
The central figure, Factory head Tony Wilson, is played by British comic actor Steve Coogan, whose most famous character is a guy called Alan Partridge, which apparently was based on Tony Wilson.
Tony is an amusingly casual narrator, often stopping the action to tell us what’s about to happen, or even to warn us about a scene that was cut but that will surely be on the DVD. Several of the people the movie is about appear in it, not as themselves, but in small roles on the periphery. Tony points them out to us, too. At one point, he berates himself for not having told us sooner that he had children with his second wife. As deliberately messy as the film is, and as chaotic as the music scene was, Tony’s style fits right in. (Also somehow appropriate are the often indecipherable Manchester accents. Subtitles would not have been amiss.)
As the New Wave movement progresses, we are subjected to the standard scenes of decadence and drug use, and the usual cautionary tales about how what goes up must come down. Fans of that period of music should see the film post-haste; others may enjoy it purely from a filmmaking perspective, in which category it succeeds pretty well.
B- (1 hr., 55 min.; )