Thursday, June 27, 2019


Yesterday is a feel-good summer movie with a non-traditional leading man, an intriguing idea, and a terrific soundtrack. The film has everything it needs to succeed, but, despite being thoroughly entertaining for much of its running time, never reaches the heights it should given what it has to work with. Even enjoying Yesterday for what it is, it's hard not to be at least a bit disappointed for what it might have been.

The set-up is simple. A struggling musician (Himesh Patel) wakes up to a world where only he remembers the Beatles. Remembering enough of their music to pass off some of their hits as his own, he finds fame and popularity for the first time while feeling the weight of his lie and the the ever-increasing pressure to continue to produce more and more of the band's hits. Although it does corner our protagonist into only one likely outcome, leaving little room for surprises (other than one small twist involving the recurring appearance of a pair of ominous characters), when director Danny Boyle's film stays focused on Jack Malik's (Patel) musical rise to stardom (and the humorous moments involved, such as trying to remember the lyrics to "Elanor Rigby") the movie is everything you want for light summer viewing.

Where Yesterday gets into trouble is with more standard romcom plot thread involving the unrequited love of the musicians's manager (Lily James) for her longtime friend. Introduced early, and then thankfully pushed to the side as Malik's star begins to rise, the story rears its ugly head again to bog the plot as it begins to dominate more and more of the film during its final act. Don't get me wrong, Lily James is great here (maybe a little too great as you are wondering just how deaf, dumb, and blind Jack has to be to not be interested), but it's the weakest aspect of the film by far.

When the film focuses on Malick's musical journey the film is far more innovated and successful. Not achieving immediate success, it takes time for Jack to gain notoriety as his first few performances (including a humorous rendition of "Let it Be" in his parents' living room) lead nowhere. The film also makes several cracks at Malik's looks and style, mostly from his friends and from a new sarcastic agent (Kate McKinnon) who appears on the scene after one of her clients (Ed Sheeran, playing himself) discovers Jack's songs. There's a gem of a film buried in the middle of Yesterday, behind the slow start and the underwhelming conclusion, but in a mostly lackluster summer this album still has more hits than misses and is worth a listen for Beatles fans.

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