I’ve had AMC’s A-List plan where you get up to 12 movies per month for a flat fee. I’ve gotten a lot of use out of it, and it’s afforded me opportunities to see movies in theatres that I wouldn’t normally see. This movie was one of that type. Usually I go to movie theatres to see big spectacle movies – you know. Star Wars, Terminator, The Matrix, stuff like that. Nothing blows up in this movie. No car chases, none of the stuff I usually go out for. These smaller movies aren’t ones I generally seek out in a theatre. But this one I did. Rather glad I did too, as I enjoyed it.
One thing, I’m not holding back on spoilers, so if you don’t want to know what happens, I suggest not reading this. Only saying this as it’s still a “relatively” new-ish movie.
This movie is basically a romantic comedy with the concept of Beatles music woven through the entire thing. Given who wrote this, it shouldn’t be a surprise it’s that kind of story. It was done by Richard Curtis, who I know from the BBC sitcom Black Adder, but is more well known for movies like Love Actually, Notting Hill, Four Weddings and Funeral, as well as many more. In some regards, the standard romantic comedy trappings are here. Girl longs after boy, boy is blind to that, she goes with someone else, etc…. The movie is also somewhat predictable if you view it solely on the level, but the unreality of a world without the Beatles makes for an interesting spin to all this.
The movie starts out with our lead (Jack Malik) playing a festival of some sort, and after a poor performance, he decides to quit. Said girl (played by Lily James of Downton Abbey fame) is also his manager, and convinces him not to quit. But shortly after this, he is struck by a bus while riding a bicycle during a world wide 12 second blackout. When he wakes, and leaves hospital, he finds that not only doesn’t anyone know the first song he plays (“Yesterday”), but that nobody has ever heard of the Beatles before.
Jack then gets a new manager, since his prior unrequited love and manager can’t come with him because she’s also a school teacher. His new manager is played by SNL’s Kate McKinnon, who goes full bore into “manager who doesn’t give a crap about how much money she can make”. This happened right around the time that he got a break from opening for Ed Sheehan (the real one) in Russia. He then goes on a tear, becoming in short order “the greatest musician of all time” (according to McKinnon).
As he progresses through all this, he realizes he totally lost himself by missing out on the girl he’s loved all this time (and didn’t act on), and then in a big business meeting, my take was that he felt he’s losing himself to the music side, too. He progresses on, but is having some nightmares (when on the James Corden show, he is confronted by Paul McCartney & Ringo Starr) about his conscious (sp?). I was a little surprised since they were playing the nightmare card that he didn’t have the dream where he played naked. Would have thought that would have been a nightmare sequence to use.
We as the audience are set up for something bad when we get someone at one of his concerts looking strange, and a woman who is eyeballing him from afar as he goes around to various Beatles locations (Strawberry Fields, Penny Lane) for inspiration. It’s mostly just longing looks, like the two people here are trying to figure out what’s going on, or they’re mad, or something. They both show up at a press conference he’s giving around the record launch, and hold up a yellow submarine in the back of the press conference. He’s visibly shaken, and taken off stage. Eventually he meets up with them, and you think it’s going to be a problem, a fight, or they’re going to bring this all crashing down, but it turns out these two are the only other two who remember the Beatles, and wanted to thank Jack for bringing the songs back for them to hear. It was a surprise twist. The reason is during most of the movie, you’re waiting for the shoe to drop, for one of the Beatles to show up, or for some mistake to be made, and his deception would be uncovered. But no, they were just there to thank him. It was a nice twist.
After that, he plays his concert, and he starts off with the song “Help”, which I thought was well chosen. His performance was different than the others before, I got the impression he was a guy racked by guilt, and being torn apart by his own self perpetuated lie. After the meeting with the two people mentioned in the last paragraph, he gets a piece of paper from them, and it turns out to be the address of John Lennon. In this reality he wasn’t killed in 1980, but survived till age 73 I think it was. Lennon was portrayed by Robert Carlyle, and I thought visually looked the part. After this meeting, Jack has a big change of heart, and decides to do something different with his life, he didn’t feel conflicted anymore.
Jack goes to a concert of Ed Sheeran’s, and plays a few songs, and during this, he reveals to the world that he was a fraud, and none of the songs were his. He still is the only person who remembers them, so it’s kind of an odd confession. He goes on to say he’s not going to take any money from the songs, and releases them all for free to the world while he is on stage. He also professes his love for Ellie – his longtime love and former manager.
The grand gesture (seen below), works, as Ellie decides to leave the guy she’s with – who was in the audience while all this was going on – and hitch up with Jack on a permanent basis.
One thing about the end of the movie, though – we never got a “solid” explanation for the reason why the world can’t remember the Beatles. It happened, we accepted it – because we knew it walking into the movie. But a honest reason why was never given. A bigger surprise is that it was never reversed. Both myself and my wife said that we expected a similar “event” like the blackout to reverse the world’s inability to remember the Beatles. But that never happened. As the movie ended, he still was the only person who remembered the songs.
The last sequence in the movie showed their life going forward, set to the Beatles song “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” – the biggest parts of this were their wedding and kids at home, and him being apparently a music teacher. The sequence shows the jilted boyfriend with another woman, so even he got a good ending, and finally the two people who remembered the Beatles songs got a last moment, it was a fun one of them dancing. The song was a really good ending to the movie, nice upbeat ending both emotionally and musically.
One other fun bit, throughout the movie there were a few other things revealed to have been forgotten about. They are cigarettes, Coca-Cola, the band Oasis, & Harry Potter. :)
- Biggest Problem: The unreality of it all, I suppose
- Biggest Strength: The music, and the overall fun atmosphere
- Overall Rating: B-
The only real negatives I have are quibbles. The base premise is known going in, so that’s a suspension of belief, but the sequence at the end where he released all the songs on his own for free made think “Well, they’re gonna sue his ass”. They’re not going to deal with that level of reality in this movie, but it did cross my mind. But they’re minor nitpicks. As I said above, it was a fun movie, and something I enjoyed seeing. Not my usual cup of tea, which contributed to the B-, but a fun time was had too.
Read somewhere that the music budget was $10 million dollars for all the Beatles songs. If that’s true, that’s got to be one of the biggest movie music budgets ever!