Movie Review #26 / 250 : ’24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE’

Spoilers.

It’s not often I get pleasantly surprised by stuff. I’m a natural pessimist. That _might_ make me a more realistic critic, arguably, but it may also make me the sort of chump who slags off ‘Flubber’ for having unrealistic characters. Also, I hate ‘Jumanji’ with a passion, and it’s been made abundantly clear I’m in a minority.

To make that speech slightly relevant, I wasn’t expecting much from 24HPP. If anything. It’s a biopic-cum-comedy based around the rise of Tony Wilson, Manchester impresario and music mogul, and the creation of both his Hacienda nightclub and the Factory Records label (responsible for bands such as Joy Division and The Happy Mondays). The main problem I grapples with before watching was that this isn’t my kind of music at all, thus I risked being detached from the movie on the basis of disinterest.

But that, as it turned out, isn’t really the point. Steve Coogan plays Wilson, and narrates the near twenty years between watching the Sex Pistols for the first time and the fall of the Hacienda – constantly breaking the fourth wall as if he were giving a retroactive news report. This is obviously an intentional move in style as Wilson remained a broadcaster for Granada Television on the side up until his untimely death a few years back.

This narrative device actually keeps things pretty interesting. Just when the film looks like it’s taking itself too seriously, Wilson makes an aside to camera and breaks it down for us. It’s also wonderfully paced – two decades are effectively done with in an hour and a half – and the way a comedic slant is sewn into what were actual events in the history of pop music only highlight the madness of the time, and keep things from drifting into boring territory.

This isn’t a boring picture at all – far from it – but it’s not really a film you can say much about. It tends to speak for itself – and as it’s essentially non-fiction, commenting on characterisation or plot is completely moot. There’s a lot of energy in this, it’s not overly dramatic, and considering the death, the excess and so forth – it’s pretty light-hearted. This is by no means a classic – after all, it’s almost documentary in its direction and asides – but it’s interesting enough, and there’s plenty of music. Which is, as Wilson points out via the fourth wall, the focus of the film – not him.

PROS: Subtle, well-paced, ingeniously directed. Good cast.
CONS: The pace is perhaps so laid back that drama is conspicuously absent in some scenes.

8/10 – Found it hard to nail down any major problems with this. It didn’t entertain me as a 9 or 10 would (and have done), but it’s so unpretentious (I expected the opposite) that it’s implausible for me to deny its charm. Still don’t like Joy Division though. Soz.

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