Movie reviews by
1 ½ (out of 4)
In spite of noted classics and separate brushes with Oscar limelight lending him the status of household name, Danny Boyle is not a director you could accurately call an all-time great. But considering this is the man who initially brought us the lively licentiousness of Shallow Grave and the scintillating sickliness of Trainspotting, you’d hope his summer fairy tale flick in the form of a musical tribute to the Beatles wouldn’t share the same mediocre sheen of the rest of this season's releases.
I thought after Trance earlier this decade Boyle could never make a more frustrating film but never mind I guess. Unless he’s dipping into genre fare like space (Sunshine), zombies (28 Days Later) or an Aaron Sorkin-penned biopic (Steve Jobs) the dependency on Dutch angles and contrasted colors ironically highlights just how little substance Boyle's really bringing to the table and serves only to energize my anger. The premise of Yesterday (of a world where only one dude remembers the Fab Four) is already wildly dumb on arrival but the film averts every potentially fascinating direction for the story and the internal sense adds up to ass the more you ponder it. Would a song like "I Saw Her Standing There" really resonate with the contemporary pop music climate without a trap beat?
Some hazily creative choices are situated as insistent jokes, making for real narrative non-starters. In Yesterday not only the Beatles but other societal #1's (Coca Cola, Harry Potter, cigarettes I guess?) have also been erased from existence – but this is treated as a pointless curiosity unfit of investigation. Actual ingenuity is downplayed for more Ed Sheehan, pathetically spoonfed themes or the worst representation of an aged John Lennon conceivable – sorry no, the guy who scream-sang "I'm lonely, wanna die" on "Yer Blues" would not be dishing out love advice at random. Richard Curtis' maddening screenplay teases the odd and nightmarish by introducing a few strangers also not effected by this mass memory wipe. Instead of capitalizing on a neat aspect of paranoia that would have given our protagonist his deserved comeuppance, the film instead takes one last turn for the saccharine.
A movie so generally innocent shouldn't inspire such violent reactions but that's just how stupid Yesterday gets. The crucial romance is tepid, most performances are forced and even Kate McKinnon for all her charisma can't liven things up in the background. Himesh Patel is a grating lead to watch take advantage of this musical blackout and Lily James' doe-eyed loveliness is wasted on sugary mush. The dynamics of the banal love story are bafflingly backwards – yeah I'm sure Cinderella herself would be the one doing the yearning.
Even in a world where proper summer escapism had been erased, Yesterday would still dissatisfy. If I were as religiously attached to the Beatles as some, I'd be devastated by such an insensitive, unstudied and prosaic so-called "celebration" of the band. I can't believe I'm typing this out, but you're better off revering the most popular music act in history through 2007's Across the Universe.
To keep it brief...
Soon to Come:
The Current War,
"So what've you been up to?"
"Escaping mostly... and I escape real good."
- Inherent Vice