Friday, June 28, 2019

Yesterday - Review

A recent uptick in nostalgia for the music of yesteryear can probably be traced to two potential sources. One: Hollywood had one big success and immediately saw the potential in more. Two: Living in a world of wonderful music that reminds everyone of a different time may be the simplest form of escapism in movies today. Either way, Yesterday capitalizes on that nostalgia, but in a surprisingly different manner.

Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) is a struggling singer-songwriter in an English seaside town whose dreams of fame are rapidly fading, despite the fierce devotion and support of his childhood best friend, Ellie (Lily James). After a freak bus accident during a mysterious global blackout, Jack wakes up to discover that The Beatles have never existed. Performing songs by the greatest band in history to a world that has never heard them, Jack becomes an overnight sensation with a little help from his agent (Kate McKinnon).

It’s nearly impossible to feature music from The Beatles and not have the film be at least marginally enjoyable. The classic quartet changed music so many years ago, so much so that it has arguably still had an effect to this day. That’s why it’s somewhat disappointing that Yesterday is not at all interested in exploring what losing the music of John, Paul, George and Ringo would do the world of pop culture outside of a few humorous google searches.

This is ultimately where the film’s biggest fault lies. Its premise is immensely interesting, but it becomes a gimmick more than anything else, a system for a standard rise to stardom story that audiences have seen a million times over. Yesterday doesn’t get overly complex, which makes a late game ethical conundrum and an awkward surprise all the more contrived and tacked on.

Thankfully, there are two charming leads at the front of it all in Himesh Patel and Lily James. Patel is making his feature film debut, and though he doesn’t get a ton to chew on, he makes a solid lead and has some good moments sprinkled throughout. Of course James has already proven herself as a solid actress, Yesterday just serves as more evidence to how much the camera loves her.

Director Danny Boyle and writer Richard Curtis have made quite a few solid to great films in their careers. The combination of Boyle’s style with Curtis knack for romantic comedies produces a film that does enough to earn the title of “feel good” that it so desperately craves.

Yesterday won’t likely make anyone’s best of the year list, it lacks a unique take on the story beats to be called great (or even good really). The two leads are solid enough and carry a lot of the film’s weight in light of its other shortcomings. If you love the music of The Beatles, you’ll likely enjoy the numerous songs that get featured throughout the two hour runtime, even if some are very brief samples, and enjoy the ride for what it is: a feel good, breezy film. 

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