Opens Fri Aug 30
For the sake of quick summaries, 24 Hour Party People is a film covering Manchester, England's music scene--from the very first Sex Pistols shows that started it, to the last hit of Ecstasy that brought the whole thing down. Behind the scenes of it all is one wavy-haired, cocky asshole--oh sorry, arsehole--by the name of Tony Wilson. Founder of hipster label Factory Records and the super-hipster Hacienda Night Club, Wilson is the type of guy who put Manchester on the map. Well not a real map per se, but at least on the map in a world of music dorks with bad haircuts. But, as anyone who has ever seen Scarface knows, once you get rich and famous, it's best not to let your ego and coke habit get out of hand. That said, egos and coke were plentiful, and soon enough both the record label and club were no more. The end.
Now let's look at the real problem with this movie: it's not interesting. As a subject, as a film, and as a time period--nothing about 24 Hour Party People screams "Make me into a movie!" Instead, it's just one of many small explosions of good music from bad towns that have occurred over the past couple decades. It might warrant an article in Mojo, or maybe if we're lucky, a book, but that's all it deserves. With the exception of Sean Harris as Joy Division's damaged singer Ian Curtis, the rest of the characters are an unlikable assortment of shallow people with nothing of interest to say.
Wilson, the center of the film, comes complete with Ferris Bueller-like snide comments directed into the camera and is the kind of repulsive person who can only be found in the music industry. Like so many idealistic up-and-comers, he starts off with honest intentions as a pro-artist label--but all indie cred goes out the window while you're getting head from that hooker behind the club. Also, what band deserves royalties when your label's prominently featured office space needs a $30,000 conference table? What good is a contract, written in blood, which states "no contracts," when you blow the band's share on your fancy nightclub? With 24 Hour Party People, it's embarrassing that director Michael Winterbottom was able to take a story of youth, rock 'n' roll, and drugs and make it into a feature-length film that shows how uninteresting those elements can really be.