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24 Hour Party People Review

By Shawn McKenzie 08/28/2002

I am proud to say I’ve never taken drugs.  I’ve never tried them, and I never plan to try them.  I've never really seen their appeal.  I do think that if I did take drugs on a regular basis, I probably would have enjoyed 24 Hour Party People a little better...or at least a little differently.

24 Hour Party People is the story of Tony Wilson (Steve Coogan), the founder of Factory Records and the Hacienda Club in Manchester, England.  The movie starts out showing his frustration doing fluff pieces as a TV reporter.  One day in 1976 he sees the debut performance of a new group called the Sex Pistols.  He believes he is seeing music history in the making, so he decides to showcase other punk acts on his TV show.  He soon wants to make music, so he starts a music label and forms a nightclub for punk acts to play.  He does it right on the transition of popular music from punk to new wave, and he becomes responsible for recording some of Manchester’s most popular artists.  Their first band is Joy Division, whose lead singer, Ian Curtis (Sean Harris) had severe health problems, and a combination of that and the drugs he took leads him to commit suicide.  Wilson is able to reform the band under a new name, New Order.  He later deals with the popular (at least in England) but troublesome group Happy Mondays, and their lead singer Shaun Ryder (Danny Cunningham.)

I believe this movie worked on two levels that conflicted with each other.  The movie is very self-referential.  Coogan addresses the camera as if he already knows what is going on or that he is really a character in a movie, but still plays Wilson in his time.  I know it sounds confusing, so let me give you an example.  At the Sex Pistols performance, he turns to the camera and explains the feelings he was having at the time while watching the performance, even though his character had not finished watching the performance.  He then comments on the other people watching the performance and tells the audience where they end up after it is over or how it had affected them.  These moments are actually pretty funny and unique for a biopic.  On the other hand, there were way too many “trippy” scenes where a bunch of weird stuff goes on that makes no sense and could only be enjoyed if you were high (I’m guessing.)

Where the conflict comes in is the clash between the trippy scenes and the self-referential ones.  My theory is that if you watched this movie high, you might enjoy the trippy parts, but not the self-referential parts.  It is vice-versa for me.  I don’t take drugs, so I did like the self-referential parts but not the trippy parts.

You might like this movie if you are a fan of the music.  I am personally indifferent toward it.  I like punk music, but I’m not too crazy about goth or depressing music.  You can only hear Joy Division’s depressing “Love Will Tear Us Apart” so many times before you want to jump out a window (or do what I do to get over depression…Buffalo chicken wings!)  I personally like New Order better.  They are just as depressing, but they have a better dance beat.  The movie didn’t get into them as much as Joy Division.  I think the Happy Mondays suck, but that’s just me (I like the group that they evolved into, Black Grape, much better.)

Now I’m not advocating the taking of drugs, but I am saying that if you do happen to already be a person who does take them, there are parts of 24 Hour Party People that you will enjoy quite a bit.  They just won’t be the same parts as me.

Buy the soundtrack with songs by Joy Division, New Order, The Happy Mondays, and more:

Buy the novel of the story from the source himself, Tony Wilson:

Buy these items at

Ratings System:


Catch this movie at the theater if you can...

Wait until it comes out on video...

Wait until it plays on HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc...

Demand your money back, even if you saw it for free!

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