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24hr. Party People

The eighties rocked the mic. People partied hard, had lots of sex, and dressed like color-blind transvestites (let's ignore all the bad stuff - like crack and Reagan - for now). One of the best things about the eighties was a genre of music dubbed New Wave. Bands like New Order, Joy Division, Depeche Mode etc. The docu-drama/comedy 24hr. Party People tells the tale of the origins of this music along with one of the most infamous clubs in clubland - The Hacienda.

Comedian and impersonator Steve Coogan plays Tony Wilson, the visionary Cambridge-educated mastermind behind bands like Joy Division (who later become New Order after their lead singer Ian Curtis (Sean Harris) hangs himself), the record label Factory Records, and The Hacienda. Wilson is an unofficial ambassador for Manchester, which used to be a crumbling mill town and is now known for being a hotbed for new music and club culture. So much talent has come out of this town, it's eerie - there's got to be something in the water. Wilson acts as the Greek chorus, lynchpin, and comedy relief all rolled into one. Through his dry British humor and funny quips you get the story behind the story.

One of the most amazing scenes in the movie comes at the beginning when he attends a Sex Pistols performance in 1976 with an attendance of 42 people - most of whom go on to become legendary musicians/producers themselves. Wilson's character exists in both the present and the future; although he is living in the current time, he refers to what will be throughout the movie. He also has a direct relationship with the audience, speaking asides into the camera as if it were a home movie being shot by a friend, who adds more to the comedic side of the film and less to the documentary aspect. Furthermore, director Michael Winterbottom adds in random animation and ghetto graphics to infuse the film with Monty Pythonesque moments - and they are funny.

Coogan are the graphics are both very amusing, but if you go to see the movie to learn more about the music and the period then you're gonna be disappointed. After the death of Curtis, the movie takes on a life of its own. It begins to veer off onto tangents like Wilson inexplicably visiting his second wife in the hospital and his many shows for Granada TV. You wish you could get back to The Hacienda and New Order. Indeed after Curtis' suicide, the film turns its focus onto the Happy Mondays, and New Order is cryptically referred to but never seen again.

You're left with wanting to know more. Where are the bands now? You want to get inside the nitty gritty of The Hacienda but the movie skims the surface and keeps the club at its legendary status - the place where rave culture began, where DJs were elevated to gods and where ecstasy became the club drug of choice. But, then again, if you go to see the movie just for kicks and have no deep interest in New Wave - then you'll thoroughly enjoy yourself.

If you love New Wave - I mean really love it - 24hr. Party People will most likely let you down (except for the first third which is amazing). If you think New Wave refers to surfing and just want to see a good flick, then you will LOVE this quirky, genuine piece of cinema.


24hr. Party People
1 hour 57 minutes

Steve Coogan
Lennie James
Paddy Considine
Sean Harris
Danny Cunningham