Director: Michael Winterbottom
Starring: Steve Coogan, Paddy Considine, various others - see cast list at end
Screenplay: Bradley Hardacre
Released: April 2002

Taking its name from a song by the Happy Mondays, 24 Hour Party People is a biopic of the Manchester music scene from 1976-1992, focused on Tony Wilson (played by Coogan), founder of the seminal Factory Records. Rather than playing it as a straight, realist documentary, the film is a humorous, self-aware patchwork of various key events in the history of Madchester. There are numerous cameos, various stars of British comedy in the cast, and Coogan himself occasionally stops the action to point out some historical aspect of the story. Add to this some blatant fictionalisations and the film comes over more as an extended experiment than a serious documentary.

The story starts in 1976 with the Sex Pistols' first Manchester gig. In the audience are various future leaders of the Manchester music scene, and Tony Wilson himself. Suitably inspired, Wilson sets up his own music venue and record label with Rob Gretton (played by Considine), quickly obtaining the signature of new band Joy Division, despite their obvious hatred of Wilson.

The film continues as a series of important events in the story of Wilson and Madchester, such as the suicide of Joy Division's Ian Curtis, the rise and fall of Wilson's Hacienda nightclub, and the various problems associated with having the Happy Mondays on your record label. These scenarios provide the backdrop to some personal events in Wilson's own life, mainly concerning his ongoing problems with relationships. Eventually the Hacienda closes, Factory is sold, and Wilson's time in the limelight comes to an end.

Whether you'll like this film may depend on how seriously you take the whole thing. It is not a serious, restrained look at the story of the man or the music, but rather a series of incidents fuelled by an ironic, self-conscious style of film-making and punctuated by frequent gags and in-jokes, many of them directed at Wilson himself. Coogan's portrayal of the man is hardly reverential - throughout most of the film he comes across as something of a wanker, albeit in an unintentional sort of manner. He gets his moments though - after the closing of the Hacienda he gets the better of a smug journalist; and at Curtis' funeral, although he acts like a pompous twat when in the presence of others, there is one moment when, alone, he quietly kisses Curtis' forehead in a rare moment of solemnity.

Aside from a captivating performance by Sean Harris as Ian Curtis, numerous well-known faces from the music and comedy scenes make an appearance, which adds to the irreverence of the film. Comedian Dave Gorman and comic actors John Thomson and Simon Pegg all appear, while Howard Devoto is generously given the opportunity to explain that contrary to scenes in the film itself, he has no recollection of "shagging Tony's wife in the toilet" (thank you Bol).

This cast list comes from

Andy Serkis as Martin Hannett
Anna Tyborcyk as Gillian Gilbert
Chris Coghill as Bez
Christopher Eccleston as Boethius
Danny Cunningham as Shaun Ryder
Dave Gorman as John the Postman
James Cartwright as Morrissey
John Simm as Bernard Sumner
John Thomson as TV Producer
Kate Magowan as Yvette
Lennie James as Alan Erasmus
Martin Coogan as Chris Nagle
Martin Hancock as Howard Devoto
Paddy Considine as Rob Gretton
Paul Popplewell as Paul Ryder
Peter Kay as Don Tonay
Ralf Little as Peter Hook
Raymond Waring as Vini Reilly
Sean Harris as Ian Curtis
Shirley Henderson as Shirley Wilson
Simon Pegg as Journalist
Steve Coogan as Tony Wilson
Tony Wilson as TV Director

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