Wednesday, July 3, 2019
STARS: Himesh Patel, Lily James, Kate McKinnon, Ed Sheeran
DIRECTOR: Danny Boyle
GENRE: Comedy/ Romance/ Fantasy
What a pedigree this one has going in! It's directed by Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) and written by Jack Curtis (Love Actually, Notting Hill). Their hand prints are all over Yesterday, in the skillful way that Boyle builds dramatic tension layer by layer, and the way Curtis plays on our heartstrings with that sweet sappy love vibe.
After a worldwide blackout during which he gets hit by a bus, struggling English musician Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) wakes up in a parallel universe where the Beatles didn't exist. He's the only one who remembers them. Malik has gone nowhere performing his own material, but he soon catches on that by learning and relearning the Beatles' songs from memory and claiming them as his own, folks are awe-struck. They've never heard anything like it. Literally. Now he's on the fast track to becoming a mega-star!
Along for the ride is his manager and childhood friend, Ellie (Lily James), who has believed in him through thick and thin. Ellie has harbored a secret passion for more than Jack's music, but has kept it under wraps all this time. With Jack's newfound fame, their bond will be sorely tested.
Yesterday makes some bold assumptions. The first being that you could separate the songs--as brilliant as they are--from The Fab Four themselves and have just any fairly competent singer perform them and that he would weave the same kind of magic and create the same unprecedented phenomenon as The Beatles themselves. (If that were true, Bing Crosby's rendition of "Hey Jude" would have been a chart topper!) No, it was all about John, Paul, George, and Ringo and who they were individually and collectively. And assuming that our younger generation of iPhone zombies--influenced by a lot of the garbage and the gangsta-rap crap that passes for music today would resonate with the innocent exuberance of an "I Want To Hold Your Hand" is the second big leap of faith. But without it, of course, you have no movie. So the willing suspension of disbelief has to kick in for you to enjoy Yesterday to the fullest. Still, it's good to hear all the old Beatles classics again, and watching the crowds go irrationally berserk for Jack and his music brings back golden memories of a sweeter day.
The cast features Kate Mckinnon in a funny turn as a corporate shrew who wants to ride Jack's wave for her own personal profit, and the real Ed Sheeran is here, playing himself, so the younger crowd--most of whom have no real grasp on what the Beatles' true legacy was--will at least have a contemporary musician they can identify with.
Himesh Patel as Jack is an affable presence, and we are rooting for him for the most part, though we wonder if and when his conscience will get the best of him, and he will come clean about his deception. Lily James as Ellie is so vulnerable and sweet, I don't know why anybody wouldn't fall in love with her. And despite its flaws, you might fall in love with Yesterday too.