The Principles: Wolfgang Peterson (Director). Deep Roy, a bunch of dubbed kids and a flying dog dragon.
Premise: Well, on
the one hand it’s about a group of friends learning to cope
with the world around them (and each other) during the turbulence of the
Vietnam War era. On the other hand – it’s about
stringing together a bunch of high-concept music videos (with varying
degrees of quality) based upon the cast’s covers of a bunch of
Beatles songs (again – with varying degrees of quality).
Is It Good:
Well, no. It’s not. Taymor took a big
bite here and the majority of the time it ended up being more than she
could chew. Sometimes it’s a love story.
Sometimes it’s a musical. Sometimes it’s a
political message movie. Sometimes it’s a concert
film. Sometimes it’s trippy jaunt down a
metaphorical Abbey Road. It has a hard time being all of those
things at once, though. The only thing that it manages to be
consistently is a disappointment.
The backbone of the whole film, and
perhaps the only motivating factor for any interest in seeing it, is the
connection to The Beatles. Well,
“connection” is probably an understatement as the
entire thing plays like a “Where’s Waldo”
book of Beatles references, except that Waldo is every character on
every page. To start, every character is named after someone
in a Beatles song. We have Sadie, Jude, Lucy, Maxwell,
Prudence, JoJo, Dr. Robert, Desmond and Molly, among others.
Okay – that’s fine, I suppose, if not a little tedious after
awhile. Other references are slightly more graceful (Jude
starts the film in a shipyard, working on a yellow vessel of some sort
and one of the opening numbers has a few brief moments inside the Cavern
Club), but when you have characters dropping song titles as dialogue
(in one scene Prudence enters Sadie’s apartment though – you
guessed it – the bathroom window, so you can guess what Jude says
when Sadie asks “Where did she come
from?”) you start to roll your eyes as the novelty wears off.
that’s a lot of lip service to the least important
part. At the forefront is the music – and, like I said earlier
– it varies. Some of the covers are actually pretty good,
with my personal favorites being Sadie and JoJo’s rendition of
“OH! Darling” and the a’capella version
of “Because” that the characters sing while at a
commune. But for the most part the rest of the songs were
rather bland, with only one (Sadie’s “Helter
Skelter”) being just truly awful. So, yeah – all in
all, it ain’t good.
Worth A Look:
Honestly? Yeah, sorta. I mean, don’t bump
it up to the top of your queue, but if the opportunity to watch it comes
up it’d be worth sitting through it at least once.
Taymor may not know how to keep the whole thing on the rails, but
sometimes it’s fun to watch how she flies off.
She’s definitely not afraid to go all-in visually and
conceptually and there is a lot of artistic merit to what she tries to
do. After the credits rolled initially I wrote it off
wholesale, but the more distance I got from it and the more I thought
about it, the more I was able to pick it apart and find little moments
that I was able to really appreciate.
Anecdotes: Yes I
realize that Ringo Starr wasn’t technically a writer for the
band, but he WAS credited for “Flying,” which does
have a place in the film (he was also credited for “Dig
it,” along with the other three Beatles and “Don’t Pass Me
By,” his only solo writing credit). Probably my favorite
reference was the pairing of the Lucy and Jude characters, which I took
to be a nice little nod to the origins of those two songs.
Mama Mia!, Tommy, The Wall.
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The Tally So Far