Screened as part of NZIFF 2002
"Shot on digital video, 24 Hour Party People chronicles the rock scene in Manchester, England, from the emergence of the Sex Pistols in 1976 until the endgame of Tony Wilson’s recording and club-owning career in the early 90s. Wilson, rambunctiously played by Steve Coogan, is the ubiquitous guide of this post-Beatles magical mystery tour. He participates in every notable incident and frequently turns to the camera with spunky comments, annotations, and asides. He also provides the film’s most clever storytelling device, since his offhand remarks allow screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce to cram enormous amounts of information into a two-hour running time. At first, the direct-address technique threatens to make the picture too arty and self-conscious for the aggressively grungy story it has to tell, but Coogan’s magnetic acting pulls it off… It also suits the personality of Wilson himself, wheeling and dealing in the rock world’s lower depths while wearing spiffy suits, boasting about his Cambridge degree, and insisting that Manchester’s madness is postmodern to its bones.
The story kicks into gear at an early Sex Pistols’ concert, which Wilson – then a self-promoting local TV host – applauds as a history-changing spectacle even though the audience is in the low two figures. Wilson sees the future and its name is punk, post-punk, new wave, rave, and whatever else his new recording company might be able to peddle. The film’s trajectory roughly follows that of Wilson’s main enterprise, Factory Records, and the bands it presents: the seminal Joy Division and its second-generation, New Order, the Happy Mondays, and others. Also important is the Hacienda, a dream nightclub Wilson sets up with all the trimmings: cool decor, hot acoustics, cutting-edge music. What’s missing is customers – until a jaunty new drug enters the picture, luring Manchester’s youth to spend whole nights in Hacienda ecstasy. At this point, Wilson’s outlook seems rosy, but other complications lie in wait… Wilson takes it all in stride, buoyed by his brash self-confidence and a conviction that playing outside the rules has somehow insulated him from ordinary laws of cause and effect… On this level, 24 Hour Party People may be a personal statement by Winterbottom, suggesting that mercurial creativity is its own reward – and has to be, since audiences and critics habitually lag behind artists, even in pop culture." — David Sterritt and Mikita Brottman, indieWIRE