In Brief: Part fantasy, part Beatles tribute, Danny Boyle’s movie works in part.
Just — ironically — yesterday I was taking my six-year old and four-year old granddaughters to reconnect with their parents. Along the way we sang a few Beatles songs. A couple of weeks ago I attended a concert of a Beatles’ tribute band. The place was packed with people of all ages including two 16-year old girls who sat next to me.
Like my granddaughters, they and their friends love the band.
I grew up with their music. The girls I just mentioned did not. Like many of my generation, we waited impatiently and with much anticipation for the next album to see what incredible musical place the band would go next.
Their music was so good, so original and so inspiring that love for The Beatles and their music has crossed three generations and is now being introduced to and loved by a fourth.
Knowing how much love is out there for the band, and — other than Ron Howard’s documentary Eight Days a Week — that no one has done a Beatles movie in awhile, Oscar and Golden Globe winning writer/director Danny Boyle and Emmy winner, and Oscar and Golden Globe nominee Richard Curtis have taken their own love of the band and turned it into a fantasy called Yesterday.
Their movie casts relative newcomer Himesh Patel as struggling songwriter Jack Malick. At best his music is terrible. One night all of the power on the planet mysteriously shuts off and reboots. When the lights come back on the collective memory of some things disappears. One of them is the music of John, Paul, George and Ringo.
Malik seems to be the only person that remembers The Beatles and a few other products and inventions that have been forgotten by the rest. Jack starts performing Beatles music and after he’s discovered by real life superstar Ed Sheehan — and to quote the title track’s lyrics — Jack is suddenly, not only not half the man he used to be, but he’s a superstar.
Also involved is a love story. Jack’s biggest supporter since he was a teen is Lily James’ Ellie Appleton. The more famous he gets, the farther apart they grow.
There are two things to like about Yesterday. The first is the timeless music of The Beatles. Done with decent instrumentation and vocals from Patel, the music is fresh and fun. Second. The humorous bits involving Google and the things that disappeared from the redo provide a lot of laughs.
All you need is love does not apply to this movie. Boyle who regularly gets nominated for this award or that and who won many of them for Slumdog Millionaire and Curtis who penned the gotta love it, Love Actually, can’t decide if their film is a drama or a comedy.
The result is that it’s neither.
Another negative. The songs. The Beatles — mostly Lennon and McCartney — wrote 213 songs. Many used in the movie are pretty good but with over 200 to select from, the best songs are left out.
And there aren’t enough of them.
The music — alas — is much more interesting than the movie. Since he didn’t really write the music, Jack has a crisis of conscience for much of the film. He also struggles to tell Ellie he loves her. But that, and many parts of the film feel forced. There’s also really nowhere for the plot to go that ends in any kind of a satisfying way.
How will most of you receive Yesterday? Boyle’s playing The Beatles doing Hey, Jude as the credits roll says it all. You’ll have fun — as I did — watching the crowd singing along with the band as they file out of the theater.
As for me? I’ll recommend Yesterday but didn’t love it. Or to put it differently and to quote the last lines of Hey Jude in cadence, “Nah, nah, nah…nah, nah, nah…nah.
Director: Danny Boyle
Stars: Himesh Patel, Lily James, Ed Sheehan, Joel Fry, Kate McKinnon
John, Paul, George and Ringo are still very popular. This one is going to pack theaters with four generations of fans. Some — like me to a certain extent — are going to be disappointed. Others will love it. I’m somewhere in the middle and won’t give it a ticket to ride. Yesterday gets a Friday Flicks favorite rating of 3 1/2 out of 5.
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Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.