Steve Coogan is a delight in this enjoyable chronicling of Tony Wilson and the music scene in Manchester over the decades. There’s plenty to enjoy for fans of the bands featured in the film (I particularly enjoyed the excellent and underappreciated actor Sean Harris as Ian Curtis of Joy Division, for example), but the film works as an enjoyable comedy even for those not notably invested in the music. I know this because I’m not invested in the Happy Mondays, who are nearly the sole musical feature of the second and third act.
Coogan often breaks the fourth wall, and the film pokes some meta fun at itself often, which lends a nice bit of colour and fun to the proceedings, which every now and again threaten to get bogged down in the muck of the repetitive music biopic structure.
The casting is so great that I wish we saw more development of some of the characters/people, like John Simm as Bernard Sumner of Joy Division and New Order, and Andy Serkis as legendary producer Martin Hannett. Paddy Considine is pitch-perfect as Joy Division and New Order’s manager Rob Gretton (this role was also performed very well by Toby Kebbell in 2007’s Control).
There’s some pathos to the film, particularly in the third act, but it’s a British comedy above all else. Coogan excels at it all, of course.
I give it three Tonys, and a master tape.