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Yesterday

There have been several films based around Beatles tunes. Initial ones featuring the ‘Fab Four’ remain classics with others falling by the wayside. The most notorious example was the 1978 ‘Sgt Pepper’s’ film featuring the Bee Gees jumping on trampolines. Sadly no physical gymnastics are present in ‘Yesterday’, which would have made it infinitely more watchable. Directed by the usually talented Danny Boyle and written by Richard Curtis, ‘Yesterday’ is a saccharine-filled ode to the 60’s chart-topping mop-toppers.

Struggling singer-songwriter Jack (Himesh Patel) is desperate to hit the big time. One of his few supporters is best friend Ellie (Lily James). When Jack is injured during a mysterious blackout, his fortune is about to turn. Waking up to a world where no one remembers the Beatles, Jack performs their songs to global fame. All this comes at a cost to his friendship with Ellie with Jack wondering if success is worth losing her forever.

‘Yesterday’ is like a sugar coated episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’ extended to nearly two hours. Despite having written ‘Blackadder’ among other TV series, British writer Richard Curtis seems content to churn out sentimental feel-good fluff like ‘Yesterday’. Whilst the premise is amusing, it’s stretched too far with the romance between Jack and Ellie feeling forced. There’s no chemistry between the leads although both performers do a fine job generally. Since this doesn’t work, the film’s main focus swiftly falls by the wayside.

Danny Boyle directing talents are wasted on ‘Yesterday’. His flair for bringing energy and pace to stories is missing with each scene shot like any old ordinary TV sit-com. As expected the Beatles tunes stand out and aren’t washed out by the bland script. It may prompt viewers to seek out their work although they aren’t supported by a strong story.

‘Yesterday’ is the type of movie you’d expect from someone who wrote ‘Love Actually’ and ‘The Boat that Rocked’. Safe, insipid and uninspiring, the creaky plot lethargically wheezes its way to a predictable finale. Beatles completists will probably see it with future films featuring their songs as certain as the enduring devotion of their fans.

Rating out of 10: 4

Rocketman

Movie biographies need to be treated with caution. If the subject is still alive, they usually skim the surface of their lives for fear of facing libel laws. This often has the effect of turning them into saint-like figures with the lines between truth and fiction blurred. Musical biographies are worse as the ‘jukebox musical’ mentality sets in to mask a subject’s darker aspects. Thankfully ‘Rocketman’ isn’t like that. Charting the early career of famed performer Elton John, ‘Rocketman’ revels in the bad as well as the good times with a flamboyance that would meet Sir Elton’s approval.

Elton John (Taron Egerton) is a budding musician wanting to make it. Becoming a musical prodigy at the Royal Academy of Music, his talents are soon noticed. Teaming with lyricist Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) and managed by John Reid (Richard Madden), Elton’s career reaches stratospheric heights. Beneath the success lies bouts of depression, drugs and sexual confusion as Elton’s professional and personal life merge.

‘Rocketman’ thrives on passionate energy. From the performances to the musical numbers, all are enlivened by their charismatic dynamism. As lead, Egerton is excellent as Elton, clearly putting much verve into a complex character. Dexter Fletcher’s direction aids in exposing Elton’s rough edges with his notorious tantrums and ego on vivid display. But this isn’t a hatchet job, just a tribute to an enduring performer. Unlike other recent deceptive and bland musical biographies, ‘Rocketman’ isn’t afraid in telling the truth of its subject which is very much to its credit.

The music is interwoven thoughtfully amongst the story with the timeline slightly scrambled to fit the narrative. Most times this work even though occasionally the pacing drags. Everyone knows at least one Elton John tune with several given a good airing. The gusto of the dance numbers are impactful but they never deny the power of the drama that Elton’s life has been. By his own admission he has been a tortured and difficult soul but ‘Rocketman’ successfully provides a sense of where he’s come from and his determination to fulfil his dreams.

Even if you don’t particularly like Elton’s music, ‘Rocketman’ is one of the better biographies of recent times. Telling it like it is without a gaggle of lawyers looking over its shoulders, it’s an interesting exploration of a complex person many have grown up with. With his touring days nearing an end, Elton’s place in music history is yet to be clearly seen but his showmanship talents as seen in ‘Rocketman’ won’t be forgotten.

Rating out of : 8