Go See Yesterday

July 2nd, 2019

Who? Pope John Paul?

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Himesh Patel stars in Yesterday, a movie that asks the question, “what if only one man remembered The Beatles?”

You just … you just gotta buy the premise.

Once you do, once you’ve bought into the idea that a guy is suddenly thrust into a world where The Beatles don’t exist and haven’t existed, well, now you’re along for the magical mystery tour. (Sorry, I will do my best — I promise — not to throw in more references like that!)

For a quick and very cursory synopsis, a struggling singer/songwriter, Jack Malik, in present day Southern England can’t seem to catch a break. He decides to quit, but then a quick 12-second, world-wide blackout hits — and he gets hit — waking up to a Beatles-less planet. That’s all you really need to know.

You’ve likely never heard of the star, Himesh Patel. And that’s probably by design. He’s been on a BBC show in real life, but in the movie, he is more than obscure.

There are lots of twists and fun surprises. I was so sure I knew where different plot lines were headed, but I was continually wrong. There was only one part I knew in my gut and I actually cried when it happened. But I laughed a lot. I laughed and cheered and couldn’t believe the joy I felt as my wife and I sat singing along with the iconic songs that the audience knows and loves.

Downton Abbey’s Lily James is warm and wonderful as Jack Malik’s friend and manager. SNL’s Kate McKinnon is sensational as his new manager, answering the rarely asked question, “what would a marketing team do with The Beatles if they showed up today?” New Girl’s Lamorne Morris, Winston, has a great cameo too.

Himesh Patel and Lily James front the cast of Yesterday.

Real life singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran plays a real life singer/songwriter named Ed Sheeran. I hate spoilers, but all the previews show him recommending a slightly different take on Hey Jude. Sheeran’s role was originally scripted for writer Richard Curtis’s friend, Coldplay’s Chris Martin. But according to a Huffington Post interview, Martin sent Curtis a funny video saying, in part, “There’s been a dreadful misunderstanding. My client cannot act. Asking Chris Martin to be in a movie where he has to act is like asking a butcher to do brain surgery on a human being.”

Richard Curtis (Love Actually, Bridget Jones, Notting Hill, etc.), gave credit to the guy who came up with the idea originally, TV writer Jack Barth. He gives credit to others too. Comedian Sarah Silverman came up with the final scene that ends the movie.

There’s yes, a backstory to how the filmmakers — including director Danny Boyle of Slumdog Millionaire fame — got the rights to 15 Beatles songs used in the movie. It’s explained in great detail by Dave Itzkoff of The New York Times. In the story, Itzkoff quotes Boyle quoting Ringo Starr saying, “I loved it. It’s a great premise — he’s like us but nobody knows him.” Starr added, “I thought the vibe of the movie was great and it’s really interesting — especially if you’re one of them.”

George Harrison’s widow also approved of the movie, including a polarizing scene that reviewers and audiences either loved or loathed.

This is a summer movie to define summer movies. Forget what the measly Rotten Tomatoes score of 60% says. Pay more attention to the audience score on the same site; it comes in at a solid 90% fresh.

For a fun challenge, see if you can spot the almost exact cross-over from Curtis’s famed Love Actually movie.

My wife asked at the end, “Didn’t you just love the movie?”

Yeah, yeah, yeah!

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