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As a Beatles fan, I found I enjoyed this much more than I expected to
mike_elston18 December 2009
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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A Beatle fan's dream come true.
Hermit C-216 May 1999
There's no doubt in my mind that 'Backbeat' is the best movie ever made about the Beatles. Dare I utter such blasphemy-- it may even be better than 'A Hard Day's Night!'

Director Iain Softley (his first film!) and his co-writers chose a period and a time that have always held a lot of romance for the group's fans, their trial-by-fire apprenticeship in the seedy nightclubs of Hamburg, Germany c. 1960. This was the crucible in which the band was transformed from noisy amateurs to professionals ready to take on- and change- the world. The focus is on two young friends from Liverpool, John Lennon (Ian Hart) and Stuart Sutcliffe (Stephen Dorff). (As a critic once noted, dead men don't file lawsuits.) Stuart is a sensitive lad with a great talent for painting. John is a cynic with a very large chip on his shoulder. He may be sensitive and intellectual, too, but he'd rather die than admit that to anyone. His artistic passion is expressed in the rock & roll music he's driven to play. Stu likes the image more than the music, so he buys a bass guitar, turns his back on a promising art career and joins the band. The fact that he can barely play his instrument is not lost on bandmate Paul McCartney (Gary Bakewell.)

Playing a backbreaking schedule in Hamburg they meet up with two young Germans who become important in their lives- Klaus Voorman (Kai Wiesinger) and especially Astrid Kirchherr (Sheryl Lee), two "exi's", sort of latter-day beatniks or early hippies. Stu and Astrid fall in love and John is both irritated and fascinated by her. Soon Stu has to choose between his love for Astrid and painting and his deep emotional ties to John and the band.

The actors portraying the most well-known characters (Hart, Bakewell and Chris O'Neill as George Harrison) all bear striking resemblances to their look in the early '60's. But this movie not only gets the style right, but the substance as well. Paul McCartney has said it was full of inaccuracies (like John singing "Long Tall Sally," always Paul's number) but as an avid Beatles fan since 1964 my view is that it's a very honest portrayal. Ian Hart shines in his evocation of the complicated personality and tortured soul of John Lennon. He practically looks like a twin of John's son Julian. Sheryl Lee also stands out as the super-cool Astrid in a restrained but powerful performance. The musical performances are fine, too, done by a band including Mike Mills of R.E.M. No Beatle originals are used in the movie but that's OK because at the time they were mostly playing powerful cover versions of American rock and soul. In fact the "B word" is not seen or uttered except once, just before the film's conclusion.

This movie is a triumph for all involved and even though it's not "official" it will only add to the great legacy left by the Beatles.
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The Pre-Beatles Show
Quentin-1215 March 1999
Finally we see the side to the Beatles that no one really knew - what happened before and what they were before. Stephen Dorff gives off another simply brilliant performance as Stuart - the man who could have been but never cared enough he was "Just along for a few laughs". Being a Beatles fan I've always been interested in their personal lives and this movie gets more personal than any documentary or news reel could. As to how true the events are I'm not sure but it was a definitely enjoyable movie.
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A long, long time ago, in a country not too far away...
Lee Eisenberg2 April 2006
I think that it's especially appropriate that "Backbeat" was released right after the 30th anniversary of the Beatles coming to America: everyone was remembering them, and then a really good movie shows their early days. Specifically, it focuses on when they went to Hamburg and met artsy photographer Astrid Kirchherr. I should identify that this movie is for mature audiences only: aside from the language and sex, it shows how John, Paul, George, Pete, and Stu got addicted to speed so that they could keep playing; as a result, they got little sleep and their eyes got all glassy as they laid awake.

A really effective scene is right after Stu leaves the Beatles. Hoping to devote his life to art, he goes out and gets all drunk. Around this time, East Germany's government erects the Berlin Wall. Watching it on TV, Astrid and Klaus hold hands to be supportive of each other. When Stu sees this, he gets all violent. This scene - possibly more than any other in the movie - shows his mental breakdown.

All in all, a great movie. We also see that they first met Ringo in Hamburg. I'm sure that we'll all be remembering "Backbeat" for years to come. Rock on, lads!
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dbdumonteil18 February 2006
This is an excellent depiction of the Beatles ' Hamburg days .But the movie real heroes are actually Sutcliffe,Lennon and Astrid.The movie was made some years after Goldman's infamous book and there are hints at an homosexual relation between John and Stu ("you're jealous of me!"Astrid would have said to John!) but the director does not insist and he finally depicts a true friendship.He pits Stu's down-to-earth world against Astrid's chic elitist intellectual one : they go to the pictures to see Melville's "Les enfants terribles" (actually a Cocteau story),and she seems to be very fond of the French culture:Cocteau,Sartre ,Edith Piaf ,Rimbaud,;and she was ahead of her time since fifteen years later,rock singer Patti Smith had the same idols.The scenarists also sketch a parallel between the Klaus Voorman/Astrid relationship and "les enfants terribles" Ian Hart is an excellent John Lennon,in turn cynical,violent,delicate,nasty,hateful;Gary Bakewell resembles Paul,but he is not given a single moment to shine ;as for Georges ,he is completely insignificant.The music is very exciting .Even when Stu (Dorff) sings his ditty in a gleeful croak ,it's rock and roll ! At the end of the movie,the dialog begins to ring false.Everybody acts as if the Beatles were to become huge ;at the time ,who could have predicted such a career?It's a rebuilding of history a posteriori.And if the final lines about Astrid,Stu and Klaus are useful,those about the Beatles are overkill:everybody knows that they were the biggest group of all time.

A must for Beatles' fans anyway.
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A Flavour of early 60's pop music in the raw
mnkim3 October 2011
I won't attempt to cover the detail that so many others have simply to add. Sheryl plays Astrid very well, she implies the flavour of those early days of popular music very much in the raw. Not musically perfect or electronically sanitised but real thumping music for kids which they (and I was of that time albeit a little younger than the characters) loved. Remember there had been nothing like it before. Even Elvis's influence lacked the raw dark, smoky, sweaty feel of Hamburg, the Cavern Club and many venues that have disappeared from history. Astrid's art work through pictures captured the early feel of the Beatles and their lives/times like no other. When you look at those photos you can almost touch that slightly dangerous era.

The various films about the Beatles early years all contribute varying flavours of that time without individually capturing the whole and I would recommend Beatles/film buffs to look up and watch all versions.

Most of all the individuals.John was THE leader. Paul the workaholic perfectionist. George dedicated to improving his art while not taking any of it too seriously. Stuart doing his best for his friend John but inevitably his destiny (sadly abbreviated) was art. Pete was only transitional and Ringo who had already performed with them became an important factor. Tony Sheridan and others in Hamburg made important contributions and Brian Epstien was the final and very important cog.

Enjoy all of the films.
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Much better than expected.
tonybirchwood20 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
As a huge Beatles fan this movie was actually much better than i had expected. Not sure how accurate all the smaller details were but it seemed to capture the raw energy of the early Beatles years and depicted very well just how unpleasant much of the that time must have been - a far cry from the sterile manufactured pop industry today. I really enjoyed the dialogue, interaction between the characters and the music even though there was no room for a genuine Beatles number. Whilst a massive Beatles fan generally in particular I am a massive fan and have huge respect for John Lennon as probably the greatest popular musician of all time. When you bear in mind his childhood and family background it should come as no surprise that he was such a tortured soul and, as one of the other comments puts it "had such a chip on his shoulder". We are just lucky that this manifested itself in his incredible writing and soulful singing (surely he has the most underrated voice ever - just listen to Mr Moonlight (Beatles for Sale)or it's only love if (help) you don't agree). My overriding thought at the end of this movie was just how close Stuart Sutcliffe and Lennon were and thus what a massive impact his death must have had on him. Very sad but generally an enjoyable uplifting movie. A must for all Beatles fans and pretty good entertainment for anyone else.
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My favorite movie !
Tomasz15 February 2001
Softley's 'Backbeat' is my favorite movie I've ever seen. I'm a huge Beatles fan and I've watched many biographical films about The Fab Four like 'Birth of Beatles' for example, and I must admit that this production from 1993 is the best of them all. This picture shows us the Hamburg's episode (early 60s) of Beatles career and it concentrates on relationship between John Lennon (fantastic play by Ian Hart) and Stuart Sutcliffe (aka The Lost Beatle). Lots of laughs, lots of tears and above all - great music ! A must seen for Beatles fans.
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Good Film, Even Better Soundtrack
crbowles20 September 2002
I really enjoyed this film, I do however doubt that i would have enjoyed it as much if it hadn't been for the absoloutely storming soundtrack made up of Fifties covers which you believe would have been played by the Beatles at that stage in their careers. Add to that the fact that the Band used to create the sound of the Beatles consisted of some of the leading musicians of the 90's. They bring their own interpretation to the music just as you believe the Beatles would have done, The only exception to this is the Drum beat which tends to sound more like the 90's than the 60's that being said it does make it more accessable to a contemporary audience.

Now as for the actual film itself, It was built on an interesting story about Stuart Sutcliffe, John Lennons best friend, Choosing between music and Art, the latter enevitably wins out with the help of Astrid. Much of the story is of a Tug Of war between John lennon trying to keep him involved in the music and Astrid who sees his artistic potential. It's a story that has been played over and over again but is refreshed in the context of surrounding characters that you feel you already know.

The Characteristically funny Lennon, Business like McCartney, Shy Harrison all come across very comfortably. But they are merely bit characters as this film is more about the choices of sutcliffe than it is about the fab four.
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Pure garage raunch
shinolah12 June 2001
The film is a marvel. The only evidence of post-fame Beatles nostalgia that doesn't seek to cash-out. It is no less than a kick-ass rock n' roll film, with deft photography, powerful direction and an incredibly hard garage soundtrack. Recommended for fans of garage raunch and pre-invasion british blues.
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Great movie...but they don't SOUND like the Beatles!
aliseliz17 May 2002
Warning: Spoilers
I really enjoyed this film, but I just had a little trouble with the music. It was truly terrific, but Dave Pirner sounds nothing like Paul McCartney by any stretch of the imagination, nor does Greg Dulli sound anything remotely like John Lennon. I thought it was great that they used such well-known and talented musicians as Thurston Moore and Dave Grohl, but couldn't they have found somebody that sounded a little bit more like Lennon and McCartney? Ok, enough about that. I didn't know the whole story about Stuart Sutcliffe, and I had no idea that *SPOILER* he died. That was awful. But I really enjoyed learning more about one of my favorite bands, especially since I completely missed out on their heyday. (John Lennon died about six months before I was born! Oh, the agony!) I really didn't know much about the early days of the band, so this movie was very informative. I thought all the actors looked incredibly like their real-life counterparts. I had already see Ian Hart portray Lennon in The Hours and the Times, so I knew his characterization of Lennon was awesome, and made me enjoy his performance in Backbeat all the more. I highly recommend this film to all Beatles fans and anyone interested in rock 'n' roll history.
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Good but bad
headly6612 December 2007
What a good movie this could have been. The only reason it is interesting at at all is that there are no other movies covering this period in the Beatles history, but please. The historical inaccuracies alone just kill it. But worst of all they just don't sound anything like the Beatles. Just listen to the Cavern Club stuff on the Anthology DVD's and you will see what they sounded like just a year later. OK I know the Beatles had a ball in Hamburg, drugs, girls, etc but this is so far off the mark it's just silly. Lennon comes off as a complete dick head with no artistic qualities and Stu as some sort of genius while he could hardly play bass. Stu was about 5ft4in tall in real life but here he's as tall as Paul. This is one of those movies you can watch over and over because it plays like a TV movie of the week, but I always feel a little used afterward, this was really just a rip off and a money maker on the Beatles name. Oh and Stu was already out of the band when they recorded "My Bonnie".
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The Licensed Poets
loza-127 February 2007
A film which concentrates on the short musical and artistic career of Stuart Sutcliffe, the Scottish-born bass player from the days when the Beatles were a quintet playing the Reeperbahn of Hamburg, and his love affair with the German artist Astrid Kircherr.

I suppose there are two types of people who will watch this film: those who know little or nothing about the Beatles's time in Hamburg, and those who do. The former will probably enjoy the film for what it is; the latter will find it annoying. I am sorry to say that I am in the latter camp. There are so many historical inaccuracies that it is hardly worth listing them. The most annoying to me was the placing of the recording of "My Bonnie" before Stuart Suttcliffe had left the band. I thought that was totally unnecessary. Another inaccuracy is depicting Paul McCartney trying to kick Suttcliffe out of the band so that he could take over the bass. Also, the length of Astrid's hair is based on a self photograph of hers. Contemporary photographs show her with shoulder length hair.

As well as the Beatles themselves, who walk onstage and start to play without plugging their guitars in, the film also features the real life characters Astrid Kirchherr, Cynthia Powell Lennon and Klaus Voormann, who are named, and Bruno Koschmidder and Tony Sheridan, who are not.

Since John Lennon and Stuart Sutcliffe are dead, the film makers can imply that the pair had homosexual feelings for one another and not get sued.

The rest of the Beatles are reduced to one dimensional cutouts: the serious one, the quiet one, the cipher.

That's what the film got wrong. Let us see what the film got right.

When you look at an historical film - especially one that covers a period within living memory - one can find lots of anachronisms with the fashions of the time. Normally I will home in on half a dozen things that were not around in 1960/61. Not in this film. The shooting and direction - apart from the little melodrama at Sutcliffe's death - was good, and the scene where Sutcliffe spazzed out and threw red paint all over the bathroom was excellent, the red paint signifying blood, as though a murder had been committed.

But alas the scriptwriters were not up to the same standard as the wardrobe department, the cameramen, the musicians and the director, and I found titles of Beatles songs yet to be written, like "Hard Day's Night" and "Eight Days a Week," being worked into the script utterly ridiculous. What were the scriptwriters trying to do?
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The Story of Disco Stu
zolaaar23 June 2009
We all know who The Beatles was. But not everybody knows how many more played in the band before their big breakthrough in 1961. This film tells the story of one of them, Stu Sutcliffe, best friend of Lennon at that time and a tragic figure. It is a sensitive piece without a doubt and a decent homage to the beginnings of the world's most popular band, but Stephen Dorff as Sutcliffe is pretty horrible, his overacting almost painful to watch. Unfortunately, his performance ruined a lot for me which is the film's greatest pity, because Sutcliffe was an interesting character. He came to the band in 1960 as bass player after Lennon wheedled him into. While staying almost exclusively in Hamburg, Sutcliffe met the German photographer Astrid Kirchherr (who was also the inspiration for the famous haircuts) and fell in love with her. He neglected the duties of being a band member, concentrated on painting instead and spent his time with Astrid whereupon McCartney fired him. So, Sutcliffe accepted within a blink and said that the band is not going to become famous anyway. You bet. However, Dorff was definitely the wrong choice for the role.
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Eight Days A Week
Karl Self6 August 2010
I grew up on the Beatles' music and was therefore delighted to see this captivating biopic about their early days in Hamburg, with Stuart Sutcliffe (bass) and Pete Best (drums) still onboard, in the days even before they fashioned their hair into mopheads and long before Lennon told his aristocratic audience to rattle their jewels. The plot focuses on Stuart Sutcliffe and his relationship with John Lennon. In a way, the movie shows us the Beatles as most of us do NOT know them -- the setting is neither London nor NYC (Liverpool plays a relatively minor role), they're not being chased by hordes of screaming teenagers, their drugs are still beer and tabs (and some amphetamines); most of all, they're still a rock 'n' roll band trying to break through.

That's actually one of the movie's biggest assets: it manages to convincingly show the group as a kickass rock band, although they're playing covers of US-American hits for the most part. The actors playing Lennon, Harrison and McCartney are surprisingly convincing.

Some fans have criticised the movie for being inaccurate, because, for example, John's later wife Cynthia is shown as a homely girl with a scarf, whereas she stated that she didn't like wearing scarfs. And I'd say it's true that Stephen Dorff's portrayal of Sutcliffe is too aggressive, histrionic, over the top (in scene, for example, he needlessly attacks the Klaus Voormann character in a way that would probably get him an extended stretch for attempted manslaughter in the real world). But as long as you keep in mind that this is not a documentary, the average non-stickler fan should be more than happy with this fare.
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horrible, banal, superficial slanderous film
ukmitchell29 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Despite excellent performances by Dorff and Ian Hart, this film is a horrible melange of poor screen writing and a lack of any desire for historical accuracy. It is a horrendous misrepresentation of Sutcliffe and Lennon, and Ian Soiftley seems determined to just fill each scene with angry shouting and pointless and senseless actions to cover up the lack of character development and the lack of any reasoning for the characters' behaviors. The characters come across as the most superficial of clichés and stereotypes. One should avoid this film entirely for it is slanderous and superficial, despite being about some of the most complex and fascinating people in the history of music. The saddest thing being that people will see this film thinking it is an accurate portrayal of the people whose lives the film is based upon, and the deep and complex relationship that Sutcliffe and Lennon actually had in real life, but the inaccuracies abound. Spoiler Alert: The film shows an entirely fabricated scene that has absolutely no basis in fact whatsoever, in which Sutcliffe in a jealous rage attacks a platonic male friend of his girlfriend, Astrid. I have done research on this, and there is no basis in fact whatsoever and in truth, both Lennon and Harrison have been quoted in stating how gentle and nonviolent Sutcliffe was. This is just one of the many scenes that seem to indicate that the screenwriters just wanted to cash in by making a film about the Beatles without any true research, and to just fill each scene with as much violence and rock and roll as they could to make up for the mindless screen writing. The film limps to its closure without the viewer having any idea why any of the characters said or did anything that was played out in the film. Lennon comes across as a whiny, angry, homophobic mess, and Sutcliffe comes across as a moody jerk with no emotional depth or logic. Given the subject matter, this could have been quite a film. For a much more accurate and riveting film about Lennon and Sutcliffe, view the made for TV movie titled "Lennon."
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The Story of Stu Sutcliffe, the lost Beatle...Who cares?!
sweetlittlepie2 July 2010
Honestly I expected much more of this film than what I got. As a dedicated Beatles fan I was appalled by what I was watching. First of all the script is clearly flawed, there are a lot of historical inaccuracies, among one of the things that enraged me was that they basically made Paul McCartney out to be the villain of the story when in fact that was the farthest thing from the truth. In fact John wasn't actually that upset when Stu told him he wanted to leave the band he was more upset with the fact that Stu was staying in Germany and not returning with them to Liverpool.

Another thing that didn't anger me, but annoyed the hell out of me was Stephen Dorff's awful Liverpudlian accent. It was just really annoying and it took me completely out of the story. No matter how much Dorff resembles Sutcliffe he is the worst choice to play this role. I don't believe that at the time he was an experienced actor that was prepared for a role as demanding as this one. The dialogue was pretty shoddy, apart from the stuff being uttered by Hart, Bakewell and O'Neill. Honestly every time Sheryl Lee and Stephen Dorff opened their mouths I wanted to puke. The love scenes were cheesy and dated. Also in real life Miss Kirchherr didn't even know a word of English and had to communicate with Stu and the rest of the lads with a dictionary. Wouldn't it had been easier for them to have hired an actual German actress who spoke English to play the role of Astrid rather than an American with a crappy German accent. Also the music being played is very punk rock, a genre and a style that didn't even exist back then. The producer of the film said "this was done to better convey the way the music came across to the audience, at the time", well as "wonderful" as an idea as that is, what it does is to confuse and annoy the audience especially real Beatle fans like myself that have seen footage of the real Beatles performing classics like Long Tall Sally which was by the way massacred in this film. Another thing, the whole movie sells it self as the story of Stu Sutcliffe, the Beatle that could have been. Honestly who cares? What people want to see going in to this film is John Lennon, or Paul McCartney or even George Harrison, or poor Ringo, who doesn't even have lines in this movie he's in it for less than a minute and he's lying on a bed sleeping for the entire two seconds he's on the screen. Could it have hurt the producers to give the poor guy a line or two if merely for the fans' sake, also Ringo was one of their closest friends in Hamburg and even played a few gigs with the Beatles themselves when Pete Best didn't show up to some gigs, which was actually quite often. So it wasn't like they were going to stretch the truth if they gave the actor playing Ringo a bigger role. But no instead they write more crappy love scenes between Dorff and Lee who barely have any chemistry. Poor Astrid Kirchherr, she is portrayed in this movie as a lovesick, slutty harpy who tore Stu and John apart. She was actually very close to all the Beatles even Paul, who had his differences with Stu.

It would have been more interesting (and better) if the film focused not only on Stu, but on all the Beatles and presented the growing problems with the band, like Pete Best's absence and his lack of interest, or the songwriting partnership between John and Paul and the fight for leadership, or George's frustration as the youngest member of the band, or their growing friendship with Ringo.

But not all is bad, there are some good things though not many. Ian Hart is absolutely fabulous as John Lennon, if there is one person who can completely embody the icon it's him. He delivers the lines so well that it feels like he's improvising some of the stuff, and who knows maybe he did. Gary Bakewell looks and acts like a young cocky Paul McCartney and does what he can with what is given to him. He's written like a villain, even though for most of the film we actually agree with him but that's also due to the fact that the writers in trying to make Sutcliffe interesting and sympathetic due the exact opposite, he's just an annoyance and as soon as he's on the screen you want him to go away. Scot Williams and Chris O'Neill also do a pretty good job with the little they're given. Lee's accent is atrocious as is Dorff's and that pretty much messes their whole performances. Jennifer Ehle is passable as Cynthia

No wonder the real Cynthia Lennon was upset when this film came out, she's portrayed as a pathetic melodramatic woman. It's not Ehle's fault though it's more the writers and director's fault. I don't even know what kind of pathetic research Ian Softley did when he wrote the script and made this movie, but obviously he should of done more.

The ending is sappy and melodramatic, but what do you expect from such a cheesy and historically inaccurate biopic.
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Stu And Astrid
bkoganbing6 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Back in the Sixties when I was a mere teenager I read some of the stories about the Beatles and the background they came from. I knew of Stuart Sutcliffe and his story only months before the Beatles came into the consciousness of America.

But until I saw Backbeat I did not KNOW Stuart Sutcliffe and the curious triangular relationship with John Lennon and German photographer Astrid Kirschner. Seeing Backbeat I do feel I was transported back to Liverpool and Hamburg of the early sixties and the origins of what became the Beatles.

Sutcliffe was a good friend of John Lennon who was part of the group he and Paul McCartney put together back in the days when they were searching for an image and a sound. Sutcliffe had his own ambitions however, he was a talented artist. He also had an irreversible brain tumor and a guaranteed limited time on earth.

I think that Stephen Dorff's background from a musical family no doubt helped in portraying Stuart Sutcliffe. I had seen Dorff previously in The Power of One and was amazed at his uncanny ability to get an Afrikanse accent right in a South African story. He does similarly here with not a British accent, but a Liverpudlian one. He certainly got no complaints from white South Africans or Liverpudlians for either film. He's got the best ear for speech patterns this side of Robert Mitchum.

Sheryl Lee is a fetching Astrid Kirschner, beloved of Sutcliffe and possibly of Lennon also. Ian Hart plays John Lennon, not the poet of Give Peace a Chance, but an angry working class kid from Liverpool who wants to succeed in the music business. It's like looking in young Lennon's soul.

The other Beatles are there, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Peter Best and there's a brief appearance by Ringo Starr who was drumming for another band and would be the piece that completed the revolutionary quartet eventually. But that's after this story finished.

And the story is really about John Lennon and his good friends Astrid and Stu. For as long as the Beatles performed and as long as he performed there was a bit of Stuart Sutcliffe in their music, Lennon saw to that.
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Great history good film-making fair story
Putzberger25 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Is "Backbeat" a factually accurate depiction of the Beatles' stint in Hamburg? Probably not, to the dismay of pedants who have perused the (by my rough count) 5,000,000 books written about the history of the Fab Four. But the various milieu in which the characters lived -- the bleakness of Liverpool, the sleaze of Hamburg -- is beautifully conveyed and gives you a better sense of what shaped John Lennon's tortured genius than any dry recitation of recording-session dates. You get a nice sense of the Beatles' looming threat to Britain's staid popular culture in an early scene of John Lennon and best mate Stuart Sutcliffe sitting in a trad jazz club, wearing leather jackets and heckling the band. You also get a good idea of Hamburg's sordidness from a quick-cut stripper montage after the lads have departed England for the Reeperbahn. Musically, the band performances don't sound exactly like the early Beatles, but the filmmakers choose wisely when they asked a group of indie-music all-stars like Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) to play on the soundtrack. The loud, slightly dissonant take on early Beatles classics are as vivid and startling as the Beatles must have been to early 60s audiences. Finally, the film doesn't gloss over any bad behavior -- there's drugs and whoring galore, and Lennon is depicted as an obnoxious if engaging genius. ("How did you get to be such an ***hole?" asks Astrid Kirchherr. "Practice," responds Lennon.) It's a well-made, lively portray of The Artists As A Bunch Of Horny Young Men on Speed, and if a few dates get muddled, well, you're supposed to look those up in books anyway, not get them from movies.

What keeps "Backbeat" from being brilliant, sadly, is the central character of Stuart Sutcliffe, who comes off as a wooden, shallow pretty boy. I don't know if that's a fair portrayal of the real Sutcliffe or a side effect of asking Stephen Dorff to play him. Lennon and Astrid are competing for Sutcliffe's love, and their rivalry is a lot more interesting than the relationship either have with Stuart himself, probably because they're stronger characters played by better actors. (Ian Hart is a charmingly snotty Lennon, Sheryl Lee is a sweet and attractive Astrid.) Sutcliffe's tragic downfall would be more compelling if (A) we didn't already know about it, and (B) Dorff wasn't such a stiff. Whatever, you're watching this movie because you're a Beatles fan, you don't need a love story. As for the supporting characters (now legends), Paul McCartney doesn't come off all that well (but he never does on film); Cynthia Lennon gets a surprisingly sympathetic treatment (she's a cipher or a shrew elsewhere); and George, Ringo, Pete Best et al all sort of lurk in the shadow of John Lennon's and Paul McCartney's opportunism, just like in real life.
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comments from not a Beatle devotee
Jay Harris4 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I have never been a real big fan of the Beatles, & know very little about there music or themselves,

I do know films & also know that very rarely do they ever tell the truth about any performing artist.

This is a film about before the time these late teen-agers became the Beatles, & about Stuart Sutcliffe (he co-founded the group with John Lennon), Stuarts story is sad BUT the music is first rate.

The acting by Stephen Dorff & Ian Hart as Sutcliffe & Lennon are first rate, More than likely inaccurate, BUT this is a movie. Sheryl Lee is quite good as Stu's love interest.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie I just may have to "googleize' the truth, from Google, & we all know they are not the most accurate source. This is from 1994 & I am finally seeing it. I am glad I did.

Ratings ***1/2 (Out of 4) 93 points (out of 100) IMDb 9 (out of 10)
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good performances and compelling friendship
SnoopyStyle5 November 2015
It's 1960 Liverpool. Stuart Sutcliffe (Stephen Dorff) is a painter and John Lennon (Ian Hart) is his best friend. Stuart joins the early Beatles on the bass going to Hamburg, Germany on their first oversea trip along with Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Pete Best. German photographer Astrid Kirchherr (Sheryl Lee) introduces Sutcliffe to her avant-garde circle. Her influence and his poor playing cause friction within the band and his relationship with Lennon.

This is a Beatles movie without the cooperation of some of main players. Lennon is the leader. McCartney is a bit of wet blanket which probably annoyed the real Paul. I love the performances of Dorff and Hart. Also I love the two men's deep friendship. This is a deep bromance movie.
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Shifting focus
The_Film_Cricket22 September 2014
Warning: Spoilers
'Backbeat' purports to be about the early days of The Beatles and how almost overnight four struggling musicians playing the clubs of Hamburg in the early sixties suddenly found themselves the most popular rock and roll band in the world. That would be fine if that were indeed the story that the movie wanted to tell.

Instead 'Backbeat' puts George, Paul, Ringo and Pete Best (the band's first drummer) in minor supporting roles in order to tell the story of Stuart Sutcliff (Stephen Dorff) who's only footnote in history is that he died just shortly before the band took the world by storm.

Sutcliff isn't interested in music and that's just as well because we aren't really much interested in him. The other members of the band aren't too crazy about Sutcliff. He was briefly in the band and was a friend of John Lennon and the movie flirts with the idea that they may have been in love with Stuart's girlfriend and with Stuart.

The film's sole merit is the brilliant, almost eerie performance of Ian Hart as the young John Lennon. His face, his voice and his mannerisms are dead on. He has played Lennon before in a movie called 'The Hours and Times' which speculated on his affair with Brian Epstein while on holiday in Spain in 1963.

The problem is that the movie never tells us what it finds so fascinating about Sutcliff. How different would the success of The Beatles have been without his contribution? Basically if you take him out of this story you don't have much left. It would simply be a dull movie about a guy living in England during the 60s who paints, has a girlfriend and dies of a hemorrhage at a very young age.

How did The Beatles hit it big? When did they realize that they had made it? What happened to Pete Best? How did the foursome originally get together? How did they get along initially? The answers aren't to be found here.
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vickie02sm26 February 2006
This movie is the Beatle fan's worst nightmare: 1. Ian Hart doesn't resemble John Lennon 2. I don't believe that John had an affair with Astrid, he was in love with Cynthia at the time. 3. The movie showed the band going to Hamburg twice, neither of those visits involved Brian Esptein, who met them in Germany. 4. George Harrison, 17 at the time, looks about 25. 5. As you already may have noticed, the movie doesn't contain a single Lennon-McCartney composition. It also never portrayed the conflict of Rock 'n' Roll music: jazz music was still popular at the time. 6. In Hamburg, the audience was hard to please. In one club, the German audience threw chairs at them, in another, drunk men got on stage and took over the mike. 7. Also,Backbeat didn't quite capture John's abrasive behavior on stage. In the movie, neither of the band mates appeared drunk, nor did they swear/yell profanities at the audience; which is whatreally happened according to one biography on the Beatles.

A Hard Day's Night is much better. If you are looking for an accurate film, you've come to the wrong place, mate.
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Simply one of the best films I have ever seen...
jase_stevens7 January 2006
It's difficult to come up with the superlatives enough to describe a film such as "Backbeat"; a film that grabbed me from the first moment I saw it and has never let go. It is a film that has everything, from great acting, great music and great dialogue, right down to the underpinning love story between John, Astrid and Stuart. Ian Hart is a revelation as Lennon, which detracts the attention from equally superb performances from Stephen Dorff and Sheryll Lee. Certainly Dorff has not bettered his performance in this since. If you haven't seen this film, and whether you have or have not any interest in the Beatles, then get it on video or DVD now. 10/10.
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Entertaining? Yes. Accurate? Sort of.
aaroncates-253-50435831 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
If you haven't seen the movie yet, let me say right out of the starting gate: it's worth watching. The writing is well-done. The acting is great (despite the lackluster Liverpool accents), and it's packed full of music. Although a fun watch, it has some major flaws in terms of historical accuracy; not necessarily in terms of story (although there are a few), but particularly through the twisting of characters to help the story along. Such flaws reportedly were enough to make the real George Harrison walk out of the screening minutes into the film. I understand that for most people, it doesn't matter a whole lot, but if you're a die-hard Beatle freak looking for a historical account, this may not be for you. Allow me to explain...

Forgive me. I'm about to geek out.

1.) Important people and events from the time were not present in the movie at all, like Allan Williams, The Beatles' first manager who got them the Hamburg gig. Paul and Pete getting deported for arson is completely left out of the movie.

2.) Accounts of Lennon in Hamburg have presented him as quick-witted and good-natured, although vulgar and at times a troublemaker. Lennon is portrayed in the movie as an angry, crying, and confused person who can't control his emotions.

3.) The movie portrays The Beatles as a tight, energetic, pitch-perfect band from the beginning. In reality, The Beatles were notorious around Liverpool as the worst band in town, with the worst equipment, and no stage presence. It was playing in Hamburg that made them the stomping, screaming, water-tight group they became, but their progression as a group is non-existent in the film. Also, the recording date with Tony Sheridan took place after Stu was no longer in the band. He actually attended the recording session to watch.

4.) In the film, McCartney and Harrison take a sort of back seat, and are portrayed as outsiders, not able to understand the complex relationship of Lennon and Sutcliffe. This undermines the importance they had in the development and sound of The Beatles. Furthermore, although McCartney has stated that he felt he had to "take a backseat" to Sutcliffe, Lennon considered McCartney his musical partner, and had known him longer than Sutcliffe. It's unlikely that the friction between them was as great as shown in the film, especially considering that they agreed on Sutcliffe's sub-par playing to begin with.

5.) In the movie, Astrid appears to live on her own. Actually, she lived with her mother and siblings, who took Stuart in as one of the family until he died.

5.) There is little to no support for the homosexual implications between Lennon and Sutcliffe. None of the other Beatles have ever mentioned such a thing, and Sutcliffe's own sister says the claim is probably false. Also, Lennon's crush on Astrid was another fabrication for the film. Tony Sheridan, fellow Hamburg performer and friend of the band at the time has since said that it was McCartney who was interested in Astrid, adding to the friction between he and Stu.

Lastly, and most importantly, I think the viewer shouldn't over-estimate the value of Stu to The Beatles. I understand that since the movie revolves around him, he's going to be presented as a young genius, at odds with a selfish and fame-hungry McCartney, but that seems to me to be giving Sutcliffe a little too much credit.

There's not enough focus on the fact that Stu could barely play bass at all. They show him as a guy who just makes mistakes sometimes, when really he could barely hold it together. It's been documented that every other Beatle, including Lennon, was never satisfied with his playing, and was often embarrassed by him. Stu Sutcliffe has been described by both McCartney and Harrison as just a school friend of Lennon's who never should have been in the band to begin with. To them, he was nothing more than that.

Ultimately, he's a footnote on their page in history, and they viewed him as such. The issue with this movie is that it was billed as being about The Beatles when really it's about John and Stu's friendship. And it seems pretty obvious to me that there's a concerted effort to add gravity where there shouldn't really be any. If you want the real story of The Beatles without the Hollywood add-ins, I recommend The Beatles Anthology. Backbeat was a good movie, but if I'm taking George and Paul's word for it (and I do), Stu was much more a pretentious hipster who owned a bass than he was a tragic genius.
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