Yesterday

Yesterday-Movie-1

Sweet, cute and funny. That’s a quick description of Yesterday, the new film from director Danny Boyle.

You’ve seen people like Jack Malik (Himesh Patel). Strumming a guitar and singing in the corner of a bar or restaurant. Not awful but also not great. Being ignored by most patrons except a handful of friends.

Jack has a day gig in a warehouse in the UK and is ready to give up on his musical ambitions. Encouragement keeps coming from his manager and biggest fan Ellie (Lily James). But then something outrageous happens that causes the entire world to erase all memory of the Beatles and their music.

Except Jack. He remembers. And his handling of this exclusive knowledge drives Yesterday’s narrative. I advise you to buy into the fantasy and not question certain plot points. You’ll like (and maybe even love) Yesterday more if you play along.

When Jack performs Beatles songs as his own compositions, people are impressed by these classic tunes. Because they are new to them. He’s stunned when Ed Sheeran (as himself) knocks on his door to draft Jack into his musical realm.

Jack enjoys the fruits of worldwide success but knows that he is a fraud. He likes the acclaim but is conflicted with guilt feelings. Meanwhile, Ellie, who is left behind when Jack goes abroad, keeps appearing on the edges of Jack’s orbit.

Will Jack’s fake songwriting ability be uncovered? Will Jack and Ellie become a couple? Will music biz manager Debra (Kate McKinnon in a hilarious role) ever let up the gas on her hard-nosed attitude?

Director Boyle, whose resumé includes Trainspotting, The Beach and 127 Hours along with Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire, delivers a movie that is consistently visually interesting—at times to advance the story and at other times to keep his audience involved. Musical performances in film can sometimes be tedious; in Yesterday they all look good.

The script is by Richard Curtis who has also has an impressive curriculum vitae. Films he’s written include Notting Hill, Bridget Jone’s Diary, War Horse and Love, Actually. Yesterday is a movie that’s funny but not annoyingly so. The romcom angle may be subtle to some viewers but will be plainly obvious to those looking for it.

A must-see? Maybe not. But this fun, light story—featuring some of the best pop music of our lifetimes—will make you happy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About Time

Time travel is such a hokey plot gimmick. A few decades ago, time travel was used sparingly. Now, it’s a part of so many fantasy/sci-fi movies and TV shows that it has become ho-hum. Am I fatigued with time travel? God, yes!

Having said that, in About Time, the device of time travel delivers a romantic comedy with that’s sweet and funny. Sure it’s a gimmick, but in this case, it works.

About Time is written and directed by Richard Curtis who is best known for writing Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and, in his debut as a director, Love, Actually. He also wrote the scripts for the two Bridget Jones movies. His movies are romantic, sensitive and, happily, funny. And generally set in the UK, as is this one.

Curtis does two daring things in About Time. First, he has cast as his male lead a relatively unknown, Domhnall Gleeson, a lanky ginger who was Bill Weasley in the last two Harry Potter movies. Gleeson is up to the task as Tim. He is fun and funny as a guy who uses the time travel trick to great advantage.

Second, Curtis has a scene where two guys meet two girls in a restaurant that’s totally dark. That’s right, the screen is black for a good couple of minutes as the guys chat up the ladies without benefit of seeing them. I’m not sure this literal blackout scene is a success, but it is memorable.

One of the unseen ladies is Mary (Rachel McAdams) who becomes Tim’s chosen love, thanks to a little time traveling by Tim. She’s earned her rom-com cred in The Vow and The Notebook, not to mention the raunchy rom-com Wedding Crashers. She is sexy, but in a non-sleazy sort of way. (Her dimples appear to get deeper with every film she makes.)

Tim’s Dad and Mum are Bill Nighy and Lindsey Duncan. Nighy is in great form as the one who shares the gift of time travel with his son. Curtis has handed him some good laugh lines and he lands them neatly.

Traveling in time cleans up many of life’s messes for Tim, just as it has for his dad. And that hokey gimmick is what gives About Time its charm.

The big question: Does Rachel McAdams have the star power to generate ticket sales? Because Domhnall Gleeson, as good as he is, is not a star. About Time will need good word-of-mouth to get bodies into movie houses. Here are my words from my mouth: If you like good rom-coms, you’ll like About Time.