Well, Yesterday is basically that.
Struggling musician Jack Malik (played by Himesh Patel) is miraculously transported to a new timeline where nobody on earth has heard of The Beatles. Realizing this, he heads directly into a moral gray area by claiming their songs as his own. Putting out jams like Let It Be ends up bringing him fame and fortune, but at what cost?
I love the director of this movie, Danny Boyle. He made Trainspotting, Sunshine, 28 Days Later, The Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, and the good Steve Jobs movie. This dude knows his stuff. Throw that mind in a mix of casual sci-fi and some of the most iconic music ever created? You know I was pumped for this flick!
But after watching… Yesterday didn’t really do it for me.
There’s a blandness to this movie. Which is odd because someone was clearly adding spice somewhere. The main romance feels modern (although a bit weak at points), the whole alternate reality thing is well integrated and drives the story, Jack’s inner conflict is easy to empathize with, and it does have some interesting things to say about how we interact with art in 2019.
But ya know, the whole movie is like a dish you enjoy the very first bite of that wanes in flavor the longer you chew. Jack’s rise to stardom had me searching for a bottle of sriracha, the addition of Ed Sheeran might have given everything complexity but ended up being more of a garnish than an actual ingredient, the soundtrack makes some odd choices, and my metaphor is kinda falling apart at this point, but I think you get what I’m saying. There simply isn’t enough here to be tasty. It’s fine a fine meal but not delicious, and that’s an absolute shame.
I wish that Danny Boyle went more Trainspotting with his filming style. It might have saved things when the plot started dragging. I mean, this is a premise that practically demands avant garde expressionistic imagery and we get zero of that. Instead things are played fairly straight with a few oddly made title cards. I have a sneaking suspicion that most of the visual creativity was left on the cutting room floor. The occasional jarring shot hints at an alternate version of this movie that looks very different. Chances are we’ll never know.
The strongest aspect of Yesterday is 100% the comedy. Think of Jack as the only straight man in a world of buffoonery. Amidst the one liners, physical clowning, and some really goofy situational stuff, you can tell the writers were flexing their funny muscles pretty hard. It’s all story based too, so even when a joke doesn’t land (which is rare) it has purpose.
OH! And as long as I’m writing about the comedy, I gotta mention Joel Fry’s character. The concept of Rocky the screw up Rodie might seem like a throw away part, but Fry takes him and gives a memorable performance. This was the first thing I’ve ever seen him in and I’ll definitely be looking into his other credits. Bravo.
If you gotta catch a movie in the theater this weekend and are sick of all the action, then yeah, go see Yesterday. Otherwise, catch it on streaming in a few months. $11+ is a lot of cash and there are better flicks out there.
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