REVIEW: “Yesterday” (2019)

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From its very first trailer there was something really weird about “Yesterday”. I actually say that as a compliment. I was immediately fascinated by its bizarre concept and the wacky way it blended romantic comedy with a ‘price of fame’ cautionary tale veiled as a fun tribute to the Beatles.

Danny Boyle helms this light-hearted tale starring newcomer Himesh Patel. He plays Jack Malik, a struggling singer-songwriter who has lost faith in his chance at a career in music. His lone true supporter and loyal manager Ellie (a delightful Lily James) encourages him to stay with it while tirelessly working to secure him gigs. From the start it’s pretty obvious Ellie has feelings for Jack, but he’s too lost in his own perpetual pity-party to notice.

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Now things get weird. One night while riding home on his bike Jack is hit by a bus during a brief worldwide blackout. He wakes up to discover that no one on the planet has ever heard of the Beatles. Along the way the movie randomly mentions several other random things the world has forgotten (Coca-Cola, Harry Potter, etc.) but we never learn what or if there is any connection.

But back to the Beatles. Jack (a big fan of the Fab Four) begins writing down the lyrics to their songs and singing them as his own. Ellie hooks him up with a small-time producer to do a demo which leads to performance on a local television talk show. Global pop star Ed Sheeran (playing himself) hears the new songs and invites Jack to be his opening act in Moscow.

His meteoric rise to stardom reaches its apex when a rapacious and brutally honest record company executive (a pretty funny Kate McKinnon) signs Jack to a lucrative recording contract. She whisks him away to Los Angeles to set up recording sessions and promotional appearances. Jack’s new found fame puts him on top of the world, but how long can he lie to the public, himself, and the one girl who loves him?

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It goes without saying the whole thing is a little hokey, yet there is still a sweet and tender undercurrent that runs throughout the movie. Much of that is channeled through Lily James who is so earnest, charming and who you could argue is the heart of the movie. Patel is also really good in his feature film debut. In addition to acting, Patel does his own singing and playing on the movie’s numerous musical numbers.

Still, it’s hard to view “Yesterday” as anything more than lightweight, feel-good fluff. But is that such a terrible thing? Sure the premise is silly and makes little sense. Yes it zips through parts of the story too fast for us to ever get our footing. But as a pop music fairy tale and a reminder of how these songs stand the test of time, there is certainly room for a movie like this. And I kind of admire its complete disregard for conventional storytelling.

VERDICT – 3 STARS

3-stars

16 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Yesterday” (2019)

  1. I love Danny Boyle and I love the Beatles but I refuse to see this. One of my gripes about Richard Curtis is that he dwells too much into sentimentality and the fact that it overlooks so many songs by the Beatles that showcased how innovative and daring they were. The song selection actually pissed me off as it went for the more safe choices. Across the Universe had more balls than this. I’m glad my dad isn’t alive to see this film.

    • Wow. I really didn’t have any problem with the song selection mainly because the movie isn’t really trying to be daring. I also don’t think it really aims to be a comprehensive Beatles celebration movie. It’s much more of a romantic comedy and ‘price of fame’ cautionary tale with some really great music. If you’re looking for something more deeply Beatles, you’ll definitely be disappointed.

  2. The one question that comes to my mind when I saw ads for this was why? Why Danny Boyle? Why the Beatles? I’m glad this is fun and enjoyable. I just don’t get why that guy made a film like this. Then again, he’s always been kind of a chameleon of a director hasn’t he?

    • I think your last sentence nails it. He’s pretty unorthodox and you could say he marches to the beat of his own drum. It definitely feels like a weird choice for him but then again…Also having his name attached did bring about certain expectations for me. Sadly you don’t really see any Danny Boyle signatures. And it certainly didn’t stand out as a Danny Boyle film (whatever that may mean).

      • I feel that way about Trance. That movie was really stylish and had a good cast but I forgot about it almost immediately lol

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