24 Hour Party People is a 2002 British Biopic telling the story of Tony Wilson (played by Steve Coogan), a local news reporter who attends a pivotal gig by The Sex Pistols in the 1970s which changes his life. Believing he is living in "one of the most important fucking times in human history", he decides to start a record company called Factory Records and a club, The Hacienda. He also decides to Break The Fourth Wall and converse with the audience a lot, because it's that sort of film.
The film follows Tony and Factory Records as money is lost, Joy Division (one of Factory's first signings) lead singer Ian Curtis commits suicide, Record Producer Martin Hannett goes insane and tries to kill Tony, the birth of "Madchester" music and rave culture, The Happy Mondays sell their equipment and studio for crack and then attempt to hold back their new album from Factory for ransom... You wouldn't get this kinda stuff in a film about EMI.
The film focuses largely on two of Factory's most popular artists, Joy Division (and their later reformation as New Order) and Happy Mondays, although it also features A Certain Ratio and Durutti Column to a lesser extent.
The film is also officially part of Factory Records' quite unusual release catalog, complete with its own serial number (FAC 401) — The film's website, DVD release and companion book (written by Tony Wilson himself) all received catalog numbers as well.
Not to be confused with the trope 24-Hour Party People (which is named after the Happy Mondays song that also gives this movie its name) about background extras who show up at parties for or thrown by a work's main characters.
- Actor Allusion: Taken almost to Recursive Reality levels. Steve Coogan, who played Tony Wilson, based his comedy character Alan Partridge partly on Tony Wilson, and there are notable similarities between how the characters are presented.
- Addiction Displacement: While recording Yes Please!, Happy Mondays replace their crippling heroin addictions with more crippling crack addictions.
- Aluminum Christmas Trees: The film is a biopic that stretches the truth a bit here and there, but some of the more fanciful things included in the movie actually happened:
- Yes, Sex Pistols really did play a show at the Manchester Free Trade Hall on 4 June 1976 to under 50 people, and a significant fraction of those who attended later formed an important band, including future members of Joy Division, New Order, The Fall, The Smiths and Simply Red. The show had been arranged and booked by the members of the Buzzcocks, who had only formed a few months before. Wilson wasn't at this show, though: He caught them when they came back to town on 20 July, and witnessed the first live performance of "Anarchy in the U.K.".
- Yes, Martin Hannett really did go up on a hilltop to record "silence" and forced Stephen Morris to set up his kit on the roof of the studio, recording him long after everyone else had left. And yes, despite all of his extremely eccentric behavior, he's widely considered to be one of the greatest record producers to ever live.
- Yes, Factory Records really did lose money on every copy of New Order's "Blue Monday" because of the cost of its elaborate die-cast sleeve, despite it being the best-selling 12" single of all time.
- Yes, Tony Wilson really did compare Shaun Ryder of Happy Mondays to William Butler Yeats. Ryder is indeed a gifted, witty lyricist with a keen eye for observation, but his loutish personality has often obscured his talent.
- Yes, Factory Records really didn't have proper contracts with its artists, which is why London Records balked at acquiring them, and simply signed their lone remaining successful act, New Order.
- Yes, the Hacienda really did lose a ton of money specifically because everyone was doing drugs and not buying booze. Peter Hook of New Order once claimed that the club lost up to £18 million despite it being a packed hotspot every night. The club didn't close immediately after Factory Records went under though; Wilson and New Order kept it going until 1997. The main discrepancy with the film's depiction of the Hacienda is fairly minor: Wilson wasn't present at the final night, nor was the club's final event a rave: It was a concert by the space rock band Spiritualized.
- As Themselves: Rowetta of the Happy Mondays is the only person to have played themself in the film, although there are a large number of cameos, and Howard Devoto appears both played by an actor and as himself.
- Award-Bait Song: Here To Stay by New Order.
- Biopic: Unlike most biopics, it is not solely dedicated to a single person, but to a whole music scene and, in more general terms, considered to be a love letter to Manchester.
- Chandler's Law:
- Tony talking about the last time he saw Martin prior to the recording of Bummed. Martin showed up at his flat and fired at Tony with blanks.
- When Happy Mondays hold Yes Please! hostage, Shaun makes his negotiation introduction by shooting at Tony and the staff.
- Comically Small Bribe: Tony pulls 50 quid out of his wallet in order to convice Shaun to give the Yes Please! masters to him. Shaun accepts.
- Country Matters: Ian Curtis' first line in the movie is, "Wilson, you fucking cunt!" Later, Rob Gretton also calls him the C-word.
- Creator Killer: In-Universe, the financial failure of the Hacienda, as well as the record that all but kills Factory, Yes Please!, are touched upon.
- Dead Artists Are Better: Of a sort; the movie focuses heavily on Joy Division for the first half, but after Ian Curtis' suicide (and the subsequent reforming of the band into New Order), it goes on to show New Order's subsequent massive success with "Blue Monday", the best selling 12-inch single of all time. The focus then shifts from New Order to the Happy Mondays, although this largely was because the Happy Mondays had the more entertaining meltdown.
- Deadpan Snarker: Rob Gretton, manager of Joy Division / New Order, is depicted as an incredibly snarky individual, especially towards Tony.
- Demoted to Extra: The other members of Joy Division that became New Order. New Order guitarist/keyboardist Gillian Gilbert gets it worse and only appears twice, briefly and in non-speaking parts.
- Dissonant Serenity See Chandler's Law above. Tony is more bemused than anything else.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: Tony Wilson is dissatisfied with his career in TV journalism because he keeps getting assigned silly lifestyle pieces.
- First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Tony, the narrator, points out in one of his discussions how details of his own life are being glossed over, and while taking time to explain this, he notes that the story isn't about him but the music and Manchester.Tony Wilson: I'm a minor character in my own story.
- Foregone Conclusion: Inevitable, seeing as how this is based on real life. Ian Curtis hangs himself, Happy Mondays blows away the remainder of Factory's money with their last album, and the record label as a whole goes under.
- A God Am I: Of a sort; while smoking a joint after the last gig at the Hacienda, Tony sees a vision of God... who just happens to look exactly like Tony Wilson. When Tony rejoins his mates and tells them this, they are less than impressed.Tony Wilson: It says so in The Bible, though, doesn't it? 'God made man in His own image'.Rob Gretton: Yeah, but not a specific man.
- Good Flaws, Bad Flaws: Despite obviously possessing many flaws, Tony insists that his heroic flaw is his love of Manchester, or as he puts it "his excess of civic pride"
- Icarus Allusion: The very first scene of the movie is a local news report involving Tony trying out a hang-glider... Then turning to the camera and delivering the page quote. He later brings it up again, less directly:Tony Wilson: It was like being on a fantastic fairground ride, centrifugal forces throwing us wider and wider. But it's all right, because there's this brilliant machine at the center that's going to bring us back down to earth. That was Manchester. That is the Hacienda. Now imagine the machine breaks. For a while, it's even better, because you're really flying. But then, you fall. Because nobody beats gravity.
- The Last DJ: Tony Wilson, for all his ego and faults, is portrayed as something like this; he refuses to sell out his beliefs and the other characters, so while they routinely mock him for other things, they nevertheless respect him because of this. It builds to a climax where, facing financial ruin, Factory Records is forced to sell their assets to the London-based London Records, but it's discovered that there isn't actually anything for them to sell:Tony Wilson: Factory Records are not actually a company. We are an experiment in human nature. You're labouring under the misapprehension that we actually have a deal with, er, with our, our bands. That we have any kind of a contract, er, at all, and I'm afraid we, er, we don't because that's, er, that's the sum total of the paperwork to do with Factory Records, deal with, er, their various bands... I have protected myself from ever having to sell out by having nothing to sell out.
Roger Ames: Tony... You're fucking mad.
Tony Wilson: Well, that is a point of view.
- In Real Life, Tony had declared that one of Factory Records' fundamental policies was that "All our bands are free to fuck off whenever they please."
- Oh, Crap!: Tony and the other Factory Records employees' reaction to hearing Yes Please! for the first time, and the realization that Happy Mondays were too drugged out to write lyrics meaning that Factory spent untold amounts of money on a record consisting of instrumentals.
- No Animals Were Harmed: Tony Wilson goes out of his way in his narration to the audience to mention that no animals were harmed at the conclusion of a scene involving Shaun and Paul Ryder killing 3,000 pigeons with poisoned bread crumbs.Tony Wilson: ...Although there are those who say they're pests, rats with wings.
- No Fourth Wall: Wilson is aware he's in a film of his life, and frequently comments on the events and puts them into context. It gets to the point where he stops the film to point out the various cameos in the movie, including one from a scene that didn't even make it into the finished film.Tony Wilson: I'm sure it'll be on the DVD.
- Oop North
- Postmodernism: Most of the movie. Tony Wilson describes himself as "being postmodern before it's fashionable."
- Real Person Cameo: Tony Wilson himself, Mark E. Smith, Howard Devoto, Keith Allen, Vini Reilly, Paul Ryder and Rowetta... And those are just the cameos that have to do with the Manchester music scene.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Lampooned in-universe. Despite describing himself as "a minor character in my own life story", Tony Wilson's opinion of himself is portrayed as being very... healthy, and he is routinely mocked by the other characters for this.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: There's an unnerving scene of Ian's hanging body with the offbeat final scene of Werner Herzog's Stroszek playing in the background. What's worse? Ian really did hang himself after watching this specific movie..
- Take That!: Two to Mick Hucknell of Simply Red; one at the beginning, at the legendary 1976 Sex Pistols gig at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester, to which he is referred simply as "ginger nut", and one at the end, when God tells Tony to keep up the good work:God: It's a shame you didn't sign the Smiths, but you were right about Hucknall; his music's rubbish, and he's a ginger.
- Unfortunate Implications: In-universe — the band "Joy Division" is named after the euphemistic term for the prostitution and sexual slavery groups of Jewish women were forced to perform in Nazi concentration camps. This leads to accusations of fascism and white supremacist skinheads invading their gigs, which leads to the band spitting on them, which leads to further chaos. Later, after Ian Curtis' death, the band reveal to Tony Wilson that they've decided to change their name to "New Order" — which, as Wilson points out, is possibly even more fascistic.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Happy Mondays.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Yes, a lot of the events in the movie happened, but several are intentionally exaggerated to make the movie more entertaining. For instance, Martin Hannett never tried to shoot Tonynote . In another scene, Tony's wife Lindsay has sex with Magazine singer Howard Devoto (after catching Tony cheating on her); the film Tony (and in the DVD commentary, the real Tony) states that the story never happened, and the real Howard Devoto makes a cameo in the scene as a janitor, only to break the fourth wall and tell the audience "I definitely don't remember this."
- What Might Have Been: An in-universe example at the end of the film - "You should have signed The Smiths."
- Wisdom from the Gutter: Tony Wilson gets a pep talk from a bum on the street who claims to be the philosopher Boethius.