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A chronicle of John Lennon's first years, focused mainly in his adolescence and his relationship with his stern aunt Mimi, who raised him, and his absentee mother Julia, who re-entered his life at a crucial moment in his young life.
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A pre-fame Beatles head for the seedy clubs of Hamburg in search of success. The band meet up with a group of trendy German beatniks, one of whom (Astrid Kircherr) bass guitarist Stuart Sutcliffe falls in love with. Whilst best friend John Lennon can only watch, Sutcliffe has to choose between rock 'n roll and a new life in Germany... Written by
As seen in the movie, The Beatles are given "uppers" pills so they can keep performing when they're getting tired. Also, as seen in the shot after John accepts the pills for the first time, the Beatles are performing "Long Tall Sally" like crazed maniacs with eyes bulging and sweating profusely. The reason for this is that the uppers were actually prescription strength speed pills. According to all of the Beatles in various interviews (most prominently in the "Beatles Anthology" film and book), the band was forced to perform up to 8 hours a night, far and away more than a band can possibly play given the normalcy of fatigue that sets in from singing and playing. Whenever they grew tired, the bartenders or the waitresses would often give the Beatles (and other performers) the uppers to keep them going. Because of this, and their horrible living conditions in the Kaiserkeller Club's back room, the Beatles were often, sweaty, smelly, pale, and shockingly thin (speed pills back then doubled for diet pills) because they rarely bathed, hardly ever washed their clothes, or more importantly, ate healthy meals. However, after Stuart Sutcliffe began dating Astrid Kirchherr, she would feed the band and wash their clothes and allow them access to her bathroom for bathing. All of the Beatles have said that Astrid, more or less, kept them alive and healthy. See more »
A scene dated March 1961 has George being wished a happy 18th birthday. George's actual birthday was in February (as was even mentioned earlier in the film.) See more »
At the very end of the end titles, long after all the other music credits have run, one last music credit appears on the otherwise blank screen: "TIME TO GO HOME, Written by Maria Bird, Published by Minder Music." See more »
As a Beatles fan, I found I enjoyed this much more than I expected to
This is a film above all about the triangular relationship between John Lennon, Stuart Sutcliffe, and Astrid Kirchherr (four-sided if you include Astrid's boyfriend Klaus Voormann, five-sided if you include the band John and Stu were members of: the Beatles) -- a film about real events, about love and life and tragedy -- played out to a backdrop of the Beatles' visits to Hamburg and their performances there.
Based primarily on interviews with Stuart's mother and sister and with Astrid Kirchherr, it's been often criticised as a 'crude caricature', for its factual inaccuracies about the Beatles' time in Hamburg, about the musical performances portrayed, for the one-dimensional portrayal of the "minor" characters, including Paul, George, Pete and John's girlfriend Cynthia, and even for the fact that the actors aren't exact doppelgangers for the characters they portray (they're pretty good likenesses, though).
I can accept all these criticisms, but somewhat to my surprise they didn't spoil the film at all for me. If you want detailed accuracy about the Beatles, this is not for you. Read the books. But if you want to see a film which tells a good story well, and which will give you a real feel for the vibes of the time and for the characters it claims to portray, and an insight into one important aspect of the early history of the Beatles, I think you will enjoy this. I thought I wouldn't, but I did. And I will watch it again. And, did I say? it's about the Beatles.
This is not a biopic, nor does it pretend to be, but it does claim to tell the story of Stu and Astrid, and I thought it did that very well. I don't object at all to the use of some artistic licence, such as Astrid's excellent English. Contrary to some other reviewers, I found the portrayal of the quiet, enigmatic Stu by Stephen Dorff quite excellent, a perfect foil to the bitter, sometimes thoughtful, and wholly charismatic John Lennon, portrayed just as well by Ian Hart.
I first heard the Beatles just before their first British record "Love Me Do" became a minor hit in Autumn 1962. This film portrays events mostly more than a year before then, and even longer before their last stint in Hamburg, at the Star-Club in December 1962, the subject of a famous amateur recording. Apart from the Polydor recordings by Bert Kampfaert, we have little to judge objectively what the band sounded like in 1960-61, but judging from the 1962 live recordings, and the comments of those who heard them before they were famous, I'm quite prepared to believe the Beatles sounded then very much like the band used for the soundtrack to this film. OK, the band aren't the Beatles, and some of the details are a bit askew, but the rock-and-roll standards portrayed were all part of the Beatles' act, and are performed much as they performed them. Everyone tells how Stu Sutcliffe often played turning away from the audience, as often seen in the film. It's hardly a realistic portrayal of the Hamburg clubs on the Reeperbahn in the early 1960s, but I've seen worse, and if you have little idea what life was like for the band before 1962, this will not be a bad introduction.
Comparisons with "A Hard Day's Night" are ingenuous: that was a film made by the Beatles early in 1964 after they were famous (in Britain at least); this is a film about the band when they were teenagers, before pretty much anyone knew them outside Liverpool and Hamburg. Not the same at all. And of course, they didn't sound back then like the Beatles' later recordings, or even like they did on their tours of the US and elsewhere. Perhaps the only recording you can really compare is their first album "Please Please Me" (and the live Star-Club recording, if you have it).
It's a film, for goodness' sake. I enjoyed it as one, and I hope you do too. The characters rang true, especially Ian Hart as John Lennon, and the story is well worth telling, and well worth watching. And, did I say? it's about the Beatles.
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