24 Hour Party People
**.9 GM
Starring: Steve Coogan, Shirley Henderson, Paddy Considine, Lennie James, Sean Harris, Danny Cunningham


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This is the story of Manchester, England in the late 70s, early 80s, where it was considered the hotbed for 'the most important music in the last 20 years,' at least by Tony Wilson, the guy who ran The Hacienda, one of the hippest clubs there - so hip it apparently birthed the 'rave culture' that all them young'uns is goin' on about with their X and their pot-smokin' and their heavy petting! THEM KIDS!

It's a pseudo-documentary, with the look of a reality show merged with a snarky, self-aware and often very funny narrator in Tony Wilson (Coogan), complete with ranting asides to the camera. Just like the music it celebrates, the format of this film is subversive and offbeat, pointing out when cameos are being made by the real people being portrayed in the film and even mentioning that a lot of stuff had to be cut out but will probably show up on the DVD.

What I liked about this film was basically the strength of Coogan as a performer and Wilson as a character. The fact that he has to deliver a defense to the audience for engaging in the 'time-honored' tradition of flirting with someone, claiming to be post-modern before it was cool, is a perfect example of the kind of over-reactionary no-normality-allowed attitude that's a fixture in alternative cultures, especially those based around music movements. "Back in the day," my own thought processes would often have to jump through those rationalization hoops as well whenever I would find myself doing something that the 'truly cool and in-the-know' people would gaze with disdain towards, and there's still a bit of that floating about in my noggin from time to time. Por ejemplo, if I catch myself humming some insipid Mariah Carey song floating through my head without the appropriate sense of detached irony and mockery, I'll look around to make sure no actual cool people are watching.

The film seems a bit haphazard, though, and it felt very herky-jerky, stop-and-go, and thus it didn't completely draw me in. This movie seems to be made specifically for those people familiar with The Hacienda and the surrounding hullaballoo. I can't really fault them for that, because I'm sure it made a lot of those folks happy to see it, but as someone relatively unfamiliar with the scene, I had a little trouble figuring out what exactly made this 'the most important music' to be made in decades. All the concert scenes are decent enough, but I couldn't make out any lyrics (although if we're witnessing 'rave' culture, lyrics are hardly essential, I suppose) and the music didn't completely grab me, although I suppose it's made me a bit curious about bands like The Happy Mondays and Joy Division now that I may follow up on that and see what they truly have to offer. I just think it should have made me really hunger to find out what it's all about.

The point seems to be that the music generated in that area was a groundswell of sounds that were different from what had been done before and what was popular at the time, and that was what made it so crucial to everybody's mindsets. This is back when music could really be "important." Most everything seems to have been bought and sold now, even cool people enjoying pop music 'ironically,' plenty to rebel against but no rebellion taken seriously, yadda yadda yadda. The last time that actual music of substance attempted to make its way to the forefront, they slapped a 'grunge' label on it and churned out all sorts of clones so they could run it into the ground really fast and make people hunger for pretty people who can't write their own music to become popular again. Should anyone think back to the early 90s and say 'hey, that was interesting, I'd like to hear more,' people will point to new Christian rock and the bands covering those earlier songs and say "hey, important music is still around! Enjoy!"

The music revolution will not be televised - it won't even happen. All you can do is just, on your own, go out and try to sample some music you ordinarily wouldn't try, going into it with an open mind. You're really into Britney Spears? That would mean you probably wouldn't ever come to this site, for one thing, but just for shits and giggles, try checking out a Janis Joplin album. Totally into Metallica, dude? Give an honest listen to some Jeff Buckley. Is Nelly or Eminem your bag? Go get a good Sam Cooke record. Do you really identify soulfully with Morrissey? Enjoy some Mojo Nixon. And so on. Keep your mind open, musically, and you'll be happier for it.

As usual, I'm off on a tangent. This movie is funny and interesting at times, but not enough to completely make up for a meandering set of ideas and the door not being open enough for outsiders to truly feel like they know what it's all about on the inside. I'm going to hunt down some Joy Division and Happy Mondays now. I suggest you do the same, and after listening to all their albums several times, you may be better prepared to enjoy the film.

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