Leonard Zwelling

This is not a movie review.

I will not be outlining the full plot of this excellent film. I will not be talking about the performances or the actors or the director. I want to talk about two things.

First, what this film is really about is what the world would be without the Beatles. The answer is a lesser place. But second, what it is really about is what the world would be without art and the price artists pay for success and for bringing their art to us.

The basic concept of the film is that a world-wide power blackout occurs and leads to a bus accident that has the vehicle strike the bicycling Jack Mailk, a failed guitar player and song writer. The power comes back on 12 seconds after the blackout and Jack awakens in a hospital with two missing teeth. Rapidly he learns that the Beatles (and a few other things that we take for granted) do not exist in the world in which he gains consciousness. Yet he remembers the words and music and jump starts his career using the Beatles’ songs. That’s all I will say about the plot other than that there are lots of twists and turns and a big surprise ending that wraps up the film in a charming and satisfying way.

What this film does better than any since Help! is capture the essence of the Beatles’ appeal over all of these 55 years not by showing the Beatles at all, but by showing the feelings that the Beatles evoked throughout the world in a way that had never been seen before or since. In doing this with the Beatles’ music, it demonstrates the importance of art to the state of humanity and it does so without unnecessarily tugging at your heartstrings or over using the music itself. There’s just enough retooling of the Beatles’ songbook to remind you how great the songwriting was. How? The new versions of the old songs are fresh and nothing being recorded today can even compare with the music of John, Paul, George and Ringo. Even Ed Sheeran, who makes a funny guest appearance as himself, loses a songwriting contest to The Long and Winding Road. He dubs himself Salieri to the lead character’s Mozart and there can be no doubt that Lennon and McCartney were of the caliber of Mozart. George, too. Paul still is.

So the reasons to see this film are three. First, it is clever, well-written, well-directed and well-acted and is a good movie. Second, the music. It still excites after 50 plus years. Third, the message. We would be a lesser species without the artists among us and so many of the most successful of these artists still pay a great price for carrying their gifts to us.

Anyone who loves music, especially the Beatles’ music, must see the film. Not only is it a respectful paean to the greatest pop band that ever was, but it is a tribute to all artists, even those who are not successful, and that all art is an important expression of our humanity and we all should be grateful for the burden borne by those blessed with great talent. And even to those who aren’t but keep trying.

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