Sunday, June 30, 2019

Movie Review: "Yesterday" (2019)

Movie Poster for the Universal Pictures Beatles-inspired film Yesterday, directed by Danny Boyle and starring Himesh Patel and Lily James
Image Source
Director: Danny Boyle
Year: 2019
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 56 minutes

An unexplained global phenomenon wipes the band The Beatles, among other things, out of existence, leaving just one struggling musician left as the only person who remembers them or their music, which he uses to catapult himself to stardom.

Jack Malik, played by Himesh Patel, looks depressed after a terrible gig at the Latitude festival in Yesterday, Danny Boyle's latest film about The Beatles never existing
"If it hasn't happened by now, it's not going to." (Image Source)
♫ Imagine there's no Beatles...♫
♪ It's not easy, but you can try... ♪
♬ No "Help," No "Michelle," No "Lucy in the Sky"... ♬

Since The Beatles don't exist, "Yesterday" is no longer one of their best songs, it's just a movie directed by Danny Boyle, who is known for making the films "Trainspotting," the Oscar-nominated "127 Hours," and the Oscar-winning "Slumdog Millionaire." It is written by Jack Barth, a TV writer making his feature debut, and Richard Curtis, who is best known for writing movies like "About Time," "Four Weddings and a Funeral," and "Love Actually." The story follows a struggling musician named Jack Malick (Himesh Patel), who after 10 years of playing low-rent gigs in the UK is finally ready to hang up his dream. That same night during a bizarre, unexplained worldwide power outage, Jack is hit by a bus, and when he wakes up, he soon realizes the rock band The Beatles (and a few other things) have been wiped from history. Oddly enough, he remembers all of their songs. Now, Jack uses his knowledge of their music and his musical abilities to get the stardom that has evaded him for so many years. Once he achieves a little bit (and then a lot) of fame, he worries he will one day be exposed as a fraud. That, however, is all a setup for a romance between Jack and his longtime manager/friend Ellie (Lily James), the only person who has ever believed in his talent.
Himesh Patel's character Jack Malik records music and talks with Ed Sheeran inside a studio in the 2019 movie Yesterday
"Basically, we're talking about the Shakespeare of pop music." (Image Source)
If you are a film watcher who likes every single plot detail explained to the tee, you're going to want to avoid "Yesterday" because you won't find the answers you're looking for here. This is a film that will require a pretty big suspension of disbelief from the audience. If you're going to be sitting in your seat thinking about how much the world would have actually changed had The Beatles never existed, you might hate this film because it assumes everything would have been the same sans George, Paul, Ringo, and John. It actually sort of negates and diminishes the impact The Beatles had on not just the music scene, but on global culture as well. The best course of action is to not think about it too much or else it's guaranteed you're not going to enjoy it.

We're 50/50 when it comes to "Yesterday," so let's start with the good. Himesh Patel nails it as Jack Malik. He is charming, funny, sweet, and has a killer singing voice. We hope to see him in more films because he has an outstanding on-screen presence. Being that the movie features Patel's excellent vocals with the incredible Beatles catalog, the music aspect alone is worth the price of admission if you're a fan. Lily James continues to impress us as Ellie, the woman who has stood by Jack's side through thick and thin for years. Any charm "Yesterday" has is due in large part to James and Patel's electric chemistry, even when he's being a total douchebag and doesn't deserve her kindness. Now, for the not-so-good. Something about this project rubbed us the wrong way. It's ironic that the narrative so heavily relies on the characters forgetting The Beatles while also requiring the audience to be familiar with them. Despite its fantastical, supernatural premise, at its core, it is still a paint-by-numbers romantic comedy that doesn't offer anything unique or original. It has the standard conflicts and resolutions we've come to expect from this genre, right down to the third act grand romantic gesture. For some viewers, a cute-but-cliche romance about two people destined to be together will be enough. We, however, cannot shake this feeling that something was missing from what seemed on the outside to be a lofty undertaking that could have explored a world without The Beatles so much more than it did. Finally, on the technical front, we thought Danny Boyle's signature camerawork and askew angles were distracting and felt unnecessary in this story.
Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) and Ellie (Lily James) are reunited in a hotel lobby in a movie still for the film Yesterday
"Bang me backward over a Buick, this is going to be the greatest album of all time." (Image Source)
We'd be lying if we didn't say we were a little sad and disappointed with how basic "Yesterday" turned out to be. It's "fine" for the most part, but it's nothing to write home about. The performances are swell, and there is a bit of enjoyment here and there, but we left the theater feeling like we wanted more from this severely flawed (albeit ambitious) film.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 5.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.0/10
RT Rating: 59%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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