Two stars for Lily James because . . . well, Lily James. One star for the odd bit of humor now and then, mostly very cozy British bits like the dad asking for a sandwich or someone stealing someone's crisps.
Other than that, this was a movie that left me feeling like Marlon Brando at the end of Apocalypse Now. The horror . .. the horror!
Please understand, I'm an American male and I've been listening to the Beatles for forty-three years. I remember what it was like when you could only buy their albums on vinyl and in America they were all different. We had Beatles 65 Beatles VI, and not Beatles for Sale. But I remember how good it felt on Sunday mornings at home, listening to songs like "Kansas City" and "Words of Love."
Funny thing is, both those songs are actually not Beatle originals. "Kansas City" was a Little Richard song. Richard was a gay black man from Macon, Georgia. "Words of Love" was written by a Texan named Buddy Holly. The Beatles learned a lot from those guys. Without them the Beatles really would not have existed. Without America the Beatles would not have existed.
Yet in this movie America is bad news, a joke, a put on. And the music of the Beatles is re-invented in a sort of painless virgin-birth that excludes any vision of change, conflict, or rebellion.
God knows the Beatles could be tough on America ("Rocky Raccoon" "Happiness Is A Warm Gun.") But they could also be hard on women. And old people. And England. And, well, everything. It's astonishing how the makers of this film want the Beatles to be remembered -- only the softest, soppiest ballads, and barely a nod to any of the mean, hard-rocking material they did almost as well as the Rolling Stones.
So getting down to the plot, such as it was. It's great fun to see Lily James, who soared playing unforgettable dream girls like Elizabeth Bennett and Natasha Rostov, playing a forgettable girl next door type. She just is so touching in all her scenes, especially when she hears "Yesterday" for the first time. But it's funny because when Jack leaves her to go on his first tour, I really expected him to start singing "If I Needed Someone." Because he's brushing her off for the money, and he's really ice cold about it! "If I had some more time to spend, then I guess I'd be with you my friend . . . if I needed someone!"
See how cold that song is? See how heartless? George Harrison wrote that. See, the Beatles could be cold. The Beatles could be mean. But they could also be brutally honest about their emotions. That's something this movie so does not get. Nor does it wish to!
Now look at the other side of the coin. In the oldest romantic movie cliche, when Jack is gone too long Ellie gets herself another man. Nothing wrong with that, good on her. But it's funny, when Jack sees the other guy I really expected him to get steaming mad and rush out on stage and start singing "I'll Cry Instead" How did John put it? "I've got every reason on earth to be mad, cause I've just lost the only girl I had. If I could see you now, I'd try to make you sad somehow. But I can't so I'll cry instead." See how direct that is? How it's brutally honest and direct and says what the man really feels, without any effort to act like a nice guy or leave everyone smiling? This movie so, so, does not get "I'll Cry Instead."
When I went to the movies yesterday to watch this yesterday, it was a big milestone in my life. All the other people in line were senior citizens, and when I said "one senior" the lad at the counter gave it to me without even asking my age. I felt kind of thrilled, yet sad. But this movie just made me sad. It's sad that the only people who want to see a movie about the Beatles are old people like me. It's even sadder that the vision this movie presents of the Beatles rigorously excludes about sixty percent of who they really were and what they had to say. Maybe it's just as well that young people are staying away in droves!
When I was a kid, forty years ago, there was a cheap made for TV movie in America about the Beatles' rise to fame. I'll never forget the scene at the Cavern Club, where the local kids are screaming and going crazy and the Beatles are about to go onstage for the first time with Ringo Starr as their Drummer. John Lennon is in command, and he looks out at the crowd with a cold, sneering look on his arrogant face. Then he shouts something like, "hello, you horrible lot. Welcome to the fabulous Apollo Theater in Harlem!"
Now what did he mean by that? What point was he trying to make? Figure it out and you'll understand why YESTERDAY is such an empty experience.
3 out of 7 found this helpful.
Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.