PG-13 for off-camera pre-marital sex, mild language, and stoner behavior. There's some pretty funny cocaine humor, despite the fact that no one actually uses cocaine in the movie. Also, the protagonist gets hit by a bus and gets pretty wrecked. That's mainly because it is a bus. If you were really stretching to find some questionable content, some of the Beatles songs make me question the wholesomeness of the Beatles' image. Regardless, PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Danny Boyle
The movie isn't perfect. I'm just going to start with that. But some comments I received blamed the issues I had on the director. In that moment, I opened up a can of wrath defending Danny Boyle. I just really like Danny Boyle. I know. That's a snobby thing to do. But I do it and I don't even feel bad about it. I like that Danny Boyle keeps changing his image. That's fun for me. Sure, when Rivers Cuomo does it with every other record, I want to barf behind my eyes. But Danny's Boyle's message has always been of changing things up. I also want to state that I nearly lost my mind when I saw this trailer for the first time. It's everything I think I wanted in a movie musical. But did it completely satisfy?
It's very good, but I had insane expectations. I watched the movie and there was nothing wrong with it. It was everything I wanted. But I came in with this attitude that this movie was going to blow my mind. I don't know what I expected. The premise is right there in the trailer. it delivered on the premise it agreed to. Heck, it even went further. It touched some very amazing buttons that I didn't know were going to be in the movie. It also to a heady-concept and completely embraced it. Like The Predator, there was no attempt to explain what actually happened. The power goes out for no reason. Was that why the Beatles disappeared? Actually, it kind of had to be. Wait, no. (As you can see, I'm figuring this out as I'm writing.) Was it the bus? Is the protagonist dead? He might be dead. The movie never really tries exploring this. By-the-bye, I beg for no one to try and pull a 28 Weeks Later and sequelize this film. (The Day After Yesterday doesn't work.) Instead, it adds all of these complications to the story that make it more fun. I'm not going to lie. One of my favorite things besides time travel is alternate universes. I always feel like it is a waste to not take advantage of the details of an alternate universe. Into the Spider-verse did it. Fringe did it. I adore this kind of stuff. Yeah, I love the concept of Yesterday, but the movie really sold me on the other things that were missing besides the Beatles. I kept on guessing what the next thing that was going to be missing. Boyle makes the world without The Beatles well lived in. I had to explain to people who were upset at the concept. It seemed to them like this was an anti-Beatles film. It's not. I'm genuinely surprised the Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr weren't on every frame of this movie because this movie had to boost sales of albums...assuming the estate of Michael Jackson wasn't holding most of the rights.
The movie definitely deifies the Beatles. I love the Beatles. I've never been much of a music guy, considering how entrenched I am in the world of popular culture. (May I remind you of the Literally Anything podcast? I mayn't? Okay.) I know. It's hack to say that you love the Beatles. But I also think it's a little snobbish to say that you hate the Beatles. My old boss swore that he hated the Beatles. It's kind of like when teenage boys claim that they loathe the newest boy bands. It's because it gives them a bit of cred. You are allowed to not be into The Beatles. But hate them? That seems like you are protesting too much. It's kind of bananas the exact setting that Yesterday builds. This is a world without The Beatles. (Or Oasis. Or Coca-Cola. And some other stuff.) The world isn't a terrible place. But Boyle's message kind of seems like a perfectly fine world that is just missing something essential. Lives are fundamentally the same. People still love music and a lot of the same artists are around. But specifically, the world of pop music hasn't had true artists. Without having to have said anything, popular music almost lives up to the reputation that it has right now. It's weird that Ed Sheeran is in this movie with all of this in mind. Ed Sheeran kind of plays an unlikable version of himself. There are some really weird results of having Ed Sheeran in this movie. He's clearly the guy who helps Jack get recognized. By all intents, he's a heroic character. But he also thinks that he is the greatest musician if it wasn't for the world of the Beatles. Or in his case, Jack Malik. He actually compares himself to Mozart and Salieri. Come on. That's not someone who really is making fun of himself. It just reads like he's a jerk. I don't think that Ed Sheeran is really written as the jerk of the piece. It's just something that I take away from the film because that's what Ed Sheeran comes across as. But the sheen of the world is a little diminished. It's kind of a specific setting. (I'm getting repetitive.) There's this b-plot that's kinda/sorta the a-plot. Malik lives in a world where music is completely commercial. Covered that bit. But Malik is bringing art to the world through his playing of the commercial system. I adore the mystery that is in the background of the two people who remember the Beatles. The misdirect works absolutely perfectly. Boyle's toying with tropes is a masterclass in manipulation. The entire movie, I wait for his comeuppens. But the comeuppens not only doesn't happen, but his success is encouraged. And then...AND THEN on top of it all, he still follows through on the moral act. He's actually given a free pass by the last Beatles nuts and still he confesses to the crime he has committed. And that character's cameo is precious. Side note: I'm actually kind of a bad person. I hate me right now. I was so obsessed with seeing who played that cameo that I didn't actually get to enjoy it in the moment. I know that my page is all about spoilers, but I have a hard time writing it out, despite that it would give me more content to discuss.
My wife adored this movie for all of the reasons. But the number one thing that she kept saying about this movie is how small and British it is. I'm actually flummoxed. It doesn't feel like a summer release film. If it wasn't containing a ton of Beatles music, it would probably be buried in February somewhere because it is such an intimate rom-com. It actually kind of feels like it was written so it could be adapted later into a Broadway musical. I think this might be one of the first films with that intention. That's entirely speculation on my part. Go figure. But as a rom-com, it actually makes me mad. I'm really forgiving of the movie because I emotionally enjoyed it. But it broke a ton of my morality rules for rom-coms. I don't know why rom-coms get analyzed harder than other films. I think it's because I'm a snob and want to say that I don't like romantic comedies and then I really started believing it. But the movie broke my number one rule: Don't have the leads dump good people for the sake of the protagonists getting together. It's such a Hollywood thing. Gavin should not be cool with what happened. This happens all the time. The dumped is such a good guy that he can forgive his significant other and place their needs in front of his own. Let's break this down. Lily James, for a not unnoticable portion of the film, refers to Gavin as the first guy who has ever treated her right. He is the best guy she has ever met. Okay, I don't say that she has to be committed to the guy, but from his perspective, everything was going right. He had the girl of his dreams. She told him over and over again that this relationship was perfect. Then her rich and famous obsession embarrasses her, and by proxy, him in front of everyone in Wembley Stadium. They get together and run off into the sunset. That's not how that works. Honestly, that is major news. Jack Malik stole the best songs ever written from four guys who have never really met. The best version of the headline is that people never find John, Paul, George, and Ringo. The worst version of the headline is that Jack Malik infers that he's from another universe and he brought that music with him. You don't think that they are going to look into Gavin? He confesses all of these things for Lily James's character. They're going to find out that she dumped Gavin that moment for Jack Malik. Uncool. My wife didn't have a problem with that so much. She's a bit of a Lily James fan. I suppose I am too. But James's character is really underwritten. Lauren pointed out that she played far too bubbly for far too long to actually be compelling. Their relationship is cute, but unrealistic. I have a bigger problem with her character. She is mad at Jack for not reading her mind. Yeah, from an outside perspective, their relationship is obvious. But she constantly reminds Jack that she is her manager. It is only when he is about to go off and be successful that she drops the bombshell on him. She puts him in this uncomfortable place where he has to risk everything he / they have worked for to pursue a relationship that might not work. Remember, she worked for him to get this level of success. She is wanting both ends. When he moves on, she pursues him. When he reciprocates, she says that having a relationship is unfair. He then does the romantic bit and pursues her to the train station. Yeah, he gets tongue-tied. I don't know if tongue-tied is a dealbreaker. Then he offers a reasonable solution! He offers to take her with him and she says no. She's constantly putting all of the risk on him. Every time he starts to heal, she contacts him and reminds him that they won't be together. He's not exactly pursing her. He's doing the reasonable and responsible thing and allowing them to heal. It's really frustrating. Yeah, it works out in the end. But it shouldn't have.
But all that being said, the casting is perfect. The concept is really fun. I like the Beatles as much as the next guy and this movie works with it. Himesh Patel really sells the character. It's funny that no one really think that he has talent without the Beatles and the story keeps sidestepping that little element the whole time. Regardless, this movie was really cute and I'm surprised that I haven't asked Alexa to play the album yet.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.