4 June 2019 | spm08588
Beatles tribute gets lost in love story and is saved by Beatles music
Vi and I made it out last night to a preview of Danny Boyle's most recent which contemplates what the world might be like without The Beatles. Or rather, if nobody remembered The Beatles, except the former teacher, protagonist who also happens to be a struggling singer songwriter who is nearing the 10,000 hour mark of his up to now futile music career.
Was it 'merely' the underlying brilliance of Lennon and McCartney that propelled The Beatles to stardom in the 60's? Is it simply catchy tunes and meaningful lyrics that led to the perennial relevance of The Beatles catalog? Is this an ongoing cultural phenomenon demonstrated by the passing of love of Beatles music from parent to child, fan to the uninitiated, that continues, fervently, even today? These might be a few of the questions that ran through my head as the plot unfolded manifest in another question: could one guy with a guitar replicate The Fab Four's success?
As a bit of a Beatles fan, the subtext to the film, contrasts the roles that a select few beyond the fab four played in The Beatles success with the movie's equivalents. As a snarky jab at the music industry, Brian Epstein's meticulous eye for detail is hearkened and contrasted with Kate McKinnon, whose performance is at once spot on and over the top. Her character is undoubtedly the tip of the iceberg for those archetype 'gonna conquer the world' southern California denizens, yet rings hollow in a few spots. The distinction is poignant for a Danny Boyle movie, normally the complete opposite of tone deaf, and while I chose to include it here, the scene(s) I reference may be cut from the final release version. (For edification purposes: the music studio in L.A.)
Speaking of the studio, The Beatles, simply would not be without the mastery of studio producer George Martin. The orchestral arrangements, the sound story mentality, the embracing of The Beatles' desire to embrace the latest technologies are a few of the ways in which Martin guided the manifestation of magic conveyed on vinyl. The film, in this regard, is light on the complexity and development of the sound over time and focuses instead, even acknowledges, that Jack's is a lesser reflection of the brilliance of The Beatles, with a few laugheties about lyric selection.
Which is not to say that the interpretations of the songs chosen are not without merit. The sincere portrayal of 'Yesterday' provides a solid framing for the rest of the movie. 'In my Life' plays a vital role in driving the movie forward, and appropriately so. And the at once nuanced, yet in your face pleading of 'Help' is a true reading of the song's rarely spoken meaning appropriate to the character and plot. Patel's rendering, spoken and sung, is true.
What is a bit muddled is the inability for interpersonal communication in a world without a common language of love, alongside earworm hooks, impeccably delivered by John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Instead it takes a plot twist I didn't anticipate, to initiate the third half of the movie resolution.
Ultimately, the movie succeeds at contemplating how a struggling musician / teacher might navigate the complicated waters of being the one person in the world who remembers and can perform The Beatles...A Long and Winding Road indeed!