TROUBLES SEEM SO FAR AWAY, THEN HERE TO STAY
DIRECTOR: DANNY BOYLE (127 HOURS)
STARRING: HIMESH PATEL, LILY JAMES, KATE MCKINNON, ED SHEERAN
The modern jukebox musical movie experience comes in all shapes, sizes and songbooks. The Mamma Mia! juggernaut kicked the door down and danced around the room.
Lately, Bohemian Rhapsody flashed its Queen credentials and did as it damn well pleased. Rocketman and Elton John are still doing the same in cinemas around the world as you read this. And now, we have Yesterday, which can play the biggest trump card in all of popular music: the evergreen, never-fail back catalogue of classics that belong to The Beatles.
The odd thing is, Yesterday never quite figures out how to make the most of the sizeable sonic headstart it has on the rest of the pack. Yes, the hits of John, Paul, George and Ringo are stuffed into the screenplay
like large diamonds in a small sock. But they won’t hit you hard with that day-changing, soul-lifting rush of pure pleasure embedded in the DNA of every Beatles song.
The creative process propelling
Yesterday has the decorated duo of director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) and screenwriter Richard Curtis (Love Actually) welding an audacious ‘what if …?’ premise to a rom-com framework. Whether the structure is still standing by the end will very much come down to the eye (and ear) of the beholder.
What if some wild time-warping phenomenon wiped all memory of The Beatles and their music from history, and only one person on the planet could remember their songs? The lucky intermediary in question is failed singersongwriter Jack Malik (Himesh Patel), who subsequently rides a rocket to megastardom after passing off The Fab Four’s compositional goldmine as his own.
The music biz aspect of the movie is carried off fairly well. Ed Sheeran plays himself as a key character throughout, serving as the unwitting springboard for Jack’s leap to the big time. Kate Mckinnon co-stars as Sheeran’s manager, a cynical operator who coaxes Jack into her stable to milk every dollar she can from the guy.
As for Patel’s work in the lead role of Jack, his performance smarts are above average. However, with equal dramatic weighting given to whether Jack and his true love (Lily James) will ever make it out of the friend zone, the only right result for Yesterday is a flat pass mark.