“24 Hour Party People” is a 2002 British film that tells the story of the rise and fall of the legendary independent record label, Factory Records, and the colorful characters who ran it. The film stars Steve Coogan as the label’s founder, Tony Wilson, and covers the period from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, capturing the vibrant and often bizarre world of Manchester’s music scene during that time.
Growing up in Montreal in the late 1980s, I remember coming across the music of Factory Records for the first time and being struck by its unique combination of catchiness and depth. The tunes were undeniably catchy, with a strong pop sensibility, but the lyrics and dark undertones gave the music a deeper resonance. It was a counter to the plastic, superficial music that was so prevalent in the 1980s.
The film “24 Hour Party People” is a retelling of this time, capturing the spirit of the music and the people who made it. The movie follows Tony Wilson, a local TV personality who starts the label with a desire to champion working class cultural values and bring cutting-edge music to Manchester. Through this premise the movie focuses on the legendary bands that Factory Records signed like Joy Division and Happy Mondays, showing the behind the scene of the label, the personalities of the band members, and the way they made it to the top. The portrayals of these bands by the actors are well done, capturing the energy and spirit of the music while also highlighting the quirks and eccentricities of the band members.
Steve Coogan, who plays Tony Wilson, is a comedian and actor best known for his work on British television, including the series “I’m Alan Partridge” and “The Trip”. He brings a unique comedic sensibility to the role of Wilson, making him a relatable and likable character despite his many flaws. His style works well with the retelling of the history of Factory Records, adding a layer of humor and absurdity that feels fitting for the subject matter.
In conclusion, “24 Hour Party People” is an enjoyable film on many dimensions. It manages to capture the spirit of the music and the people who made it while also offering a commentary on the broader cultural and social context of the time. The music itself is front and center and it speaks to the fun absurdity that was Factory Records. The film is not just an entertaining movie but also a fascinating window into a specific time and place in music history.