The idea behind this film is something that makes so much sense, I’m shocked it took so long for it to come about. A musical, set in a film, containing only renditions of popular Beatles music. Does it work? Well, I suppose that depends on what exactly it was that you wanted from the film. A lot of people responded negatively, attacking the weak story and method in which it was filmed. Others responded very positively, but their views of the movie may be more about The Beatles than the movie itself. Overall, I think it’s almost a guaranteed win for all Beatles and musical fans, and it’s really hit or miss for anybody else. That’s not really a fault, but it may end up hurting the film anyway.
The story behind the movie is very simple. A group of strangers meet up, become friends, and then struggle with their own relationships, as well as the war in Vietnam. The movie focuses most heavily on Jude and Lucy, what‘s important, and what life means to them.. With a cast of very individualized characters, all named to reference Beatles songs, the film really opens itself up to some very interesting variations of familiar songs, all now completely changed and personalized to the situation at hand. A sad thing, however, is that each character is very unique, but never really given a chance to fully develop. I guess character development, and a really engrossing story, is what you have to sacrifice to get a musical over two hours long, containing over thirty songs. In the end, it’s worth it if you love those songs, but I think this is where the rest of the audience may feel cheated. Not knowing the songs, or caring about their relevance, you might be left with a pretty bland film.
The music itself is, not surprising, the highlight of the movie. It’s easy to forget, and not well advertised, that it is a musical, just set to film, and the music sequences really show this off. All of them are done in a very excellent, obviously thought out manner. I Want To Hold Your Hand is now slower, sung by a young cheerleader, and as she walks through a football field, players tumble and jump behind her in slow motion. It gives it a much sadder feeling, and I think the shock of hearing the song done so differently may be enough to carry the entire sequence. Strawberry Fields Forever is an amazing montage of Vietnam battles, and Jude taking out his frustrations with art. Let It Be shows violent riots, African Americans being beaten and killed, all while a small child sings alone on the street. When the song is sad, the scenery that goes along with it is sad, and when the song is drug influenced, the sequence may dizzy you with bizarre visuals and inverted color effects. Every song was obviously handled with care, but unfortunately, it’s also apparent that they’re essentially a crutch to push the story along. If the music wasn’t The Beatles, I can’t imagine the story being interesting enough to hold up.
The acting isn’t anything remarkable, and neither is the dialogue. The movie really is a musical for Beatles fans, and it shows with constant details directly referencing Beatles pop-culture that may not be considered by someone not familiar with the band. It’s a shame that it’s not a more widely assessable film, but if you are somebody that enjoys musicals, if you can trade a rather bland story, and under-developed characters, for amazing music sequences, and plenty of your favorite Beatles songs, then give this movie a chance. Otherwise, you may want to steer clear of it, because it definitely isn’t for everybody.