Movie Review by Daniel DeRey
is directed by Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Steve Jobs) and is written by Richard Curtis (Love Actually). The film stars Himesh Patel, Lily James, Ed Sheeran, Joel Fry, and Kate McKinnon. The film asks an original and very curious question, what if The Beatles never existed?
The plot centers on Jack Malik (Hamish Patel), a struggling singer/songwriter in the UK, who cannot seem to catch a break in life. Things seem to change however when a power outage hits the entire globe right before Jack gets into a car accident. When he wakes up he finds himself in a reality where The Beatles never existed. Jack suddenly realizes that if he can write down and perform every song by the iconic rock band, then he can achieve great success, and he does. This newfound fame however puts a strain on his relationship with his childhood friend, Ellie (Lily James), and he starts to wonder if being famous and successful is worth feeling like a fraud.
Like many people, I was interested but skeptical about the concept of Yesterday. It seemed like a very original premises but at the same time I wondered if it could escape the boundaries and clichés of a typical “wake up in a new reality” story. While the film has its predictable elements, it also has a few surprising/interesting turns along the way that help make it feel like a genuinely fresh experience.
This film is both very funny and very sweet at the same time. Boyle does a good job of setting up Jack, as a very likable artist who just wants to play music that people enjoy to listen to. It’s easy to root for a struggling underdog like this, and even though we’ve seen characters like Jack before, it doesn’t make us root for him any less. The other characters are written very well too. His childhood friend and love interest, Ellie is very likable and the two share a sweet chemistry. Most of the characters in the film, although not as original as one might hope, still provide a lot of charm and help form a really sweet story. One of the characters, however, does not add charm to the film but I will get to her later.
The writing for the characters might not be that original, but the performances of the actors portraying them are what really help Yesterday fly off the ground. Hamish Patel is a breakout star for his performance. He provides a great amount of wit and likability to the role, and his singing voice is absolutely fantastic when singing The Beatles’ greatest hits. Lily James is also at her most charming as Ellie. As I’ve said before, the chemistry and likability of both James and Patel are what make the movie as entertaining as it is. Also to be commended in the film is Ed Sheeran, who plays himself in the movie. Many people were upset at him being given a cameo in Game of Thrones, but rest assured that he does a good job and even added an extra sense of realism to the movie. Another person who deserves a shout out is Joel Fry who plays Jack’s stoner best friend and manager, Rocky. Rocky not only provides hilariously and effective comic relief, but he also brings the sentimental value when it’s needed as well. Almost all but one of the performances in Yesterday were a joy to watch, but once again I’ll get to the black sheep in a moment.
As I said the characters and the actors portraying them do add a lot of charm to the film, but there are many elements in this film that have been seen time and time again. Most of the repetitive elements of the film come from the love story between Jack and Ellie. Even though the two have sweet chemistry and are fun to watch, their up and down friend-zone style ‘will they or won’t they’ drama feels very predictable at times. It ends on a really nice note and they have some enjoyable conversations but how many times is a guy in a film not going to realize that a beautiful woman that he’s friends with is in love with him, and not realize that he should be with her until it’s too late. Sound predictable when reading that? It’s because it kind of is. The conclusion of the story does take a different spin on the “different reality” plotline that was refreshing and even surprised me. There are some interesting themes that are explored in how the music scene of today would react to Beatles music as if they never heard it before, and the film does a good job at showing the power of the music and its effect on people. Understand most of my criticisms of this movie are minor with the exception of one really big problem.
Kate McKinnon is terrible in this movie. In the film, the SNL star plays evil record manager, Debra who signs Jack to a multi-million dollar record deal. In a movie where all of the characters feel like real people, she feels like a cartoon character. Kate McKinnon does not know how to not act like she’s in an SNL sketch. Her dialogue, whether improvised or written, is just as cartoony as her acting. McKinnon never felt like a real person and felt more like a villain in an Alvin and The Chipmunks or Jem and the Holograms movie. Danny Boyle is also to blame for letting Kate McKinnon chew the scenery and ruin entire sequences of the film, including the ending of the film’s exciting climax. With this “performance”, Kate McKinnon has solidified herself as my new least favorite actress, and she belonged in this film like Russell Crowe belonged in Les Miserables. Every scene that she was in just made me angry. I felt insulted whenever she was on screen and I was supposed to take her scenes seriously or believe her as a character. Kate McKinnon ruined entire scenes and almost the whole movie for me, her performance is that bad, and I hope that there’s a Razzie for Worst Supporting Actress in her future.
In conclusion, Yesterday is a very enjoyable, light-hearted film. It takes its premise and does just enough with it. The romantic plotline and the rising star plotline have been done before, but its likable stars, along with the magic of some of the greatest songs ever written, make for a great time. The scenes with Kate McKinnon are absolutely painful to watch and almost ruin the film, but all of the scenes without her are still entertaining to watch. Yesterday has the energy and high spirits that a movie about The Beatles’ music should have and those who thought the trailer looked interesting should definitely give it a watch. Yesterday is a feel-good adventure I’m glad I saw, and despite McKinnon’s excruciating performance, I’m still going to give it a B.
See ya at the next show,