Great premise. A failing singer-songwriter discovers he’s the only person who knows The Beatles music. They existed for him and him alone. And so, he pawns their songs off as his own on his way to superstardom.
So far, so good. Then, straight to the ditch, for so many reasons.
The “being the only person who knows the Beatles thing” happened because, well . . . we don’t know. There is some sort of worldwide electrical short and that’s that. Apparently, Coca-Cola and cigarettes never existed either. Incredibly lazy.
The lead (Himesh Patel) is weak, uninteresting and one-note (confusion and skepticism are how he reacts to most everything) and as much as Lily James (his manager) tries, there is no connection, no chemistry. She’s been mooning after him since grade school and it is hard to glean why. He’s kind of a drip.
His own music is bland. They should have done more with this, with him struggling to accept that until he could cadge The Beatles catalogue, he was a pretty bad musician.
Kate McKinnon is funny. But as the slimy LA music exec, she’s way over-the-top and atonal, just this side of an SNL character. The music industry is, of course, portrayed as shallow and cynical, but in such a cartoonish way, it doesn’t work.
There is a “me or stardom” scene between James and Patel that is nonsensical. There was no need for the ultimatum, but it is given and then immediately reneged upon.
The film is surprisingly boring, with a lot of filler montage as Patel gets bigger and bigger. However, we get none of the perils or glitz of stardom. He could have met anyone in the industry, and the producers selected Ed Sheeran, a red-headed Ambien? He doesn’t meet Jagger? Come on.
The end is atrocious. Patel has an inexplicable visit to the real John Lennon (who became a sailor) and as a result, turns his debut performance into a confession to the crowd, followed by a rejection of riches (he releases all his Beatles tracks on line for free). On the subject of riches, the real Lennon was quite eloquent:
PLAYBOY: “But that doesn’t compare with what one promoter, Sid Bernstein, said you could raise by giving a world-wide televised concert… playing separately, as individuals, or together, as the Beatles. He estimated you could raise over $200,000,000 in one day.”
LENNON: “That was a commercial for Sid Bernstein written with Jewish schmaltz and showbiz and tears, dropping on one knee. It was Al Jolson. OK. So I don’t buy that. OK?”
PLAYBOY: “But the fact is, $200,000,000 to a poverty-stricken country in South America…”
LENNON: “Where do people get off saying the Beatles should give $200,000,000 to South America? You know, America has poured billions into places like that. It doesn’t mean a damn thing. After they’ve eaten that meal, then what? It lasts for only a day. After the $200,000,000 is gone, then what? It goes round and round in circles. You can pour money in forever. After Peru, then Harlem, then Britain. There is no one concert. We would have to dedicate the rest of our lives to one world concert tour, and I’m not ready for it. Not in this lifetime, anyway.”
Now, how they should have done the film is as follows.
* The Beatles work is erased from the public consciousness
* Patel steals the songs and becomes famous
* He loves, loves, loves it but starts to fall apart from the fact that he knows he’s a fraud (and the cocaine and chicks and the loneliness)
* James comes to save him and then, he confesses
* The walls start closing in as four old men from Liverpool named Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starkey, who have all grown up to be different things, hold a press conference explaining that Patel must have stolen some of their songs because they wrote some of them (they have notes from their childhoods, some lyrics, but since they never coalesced, at best, it is old, Quarrymen stuff)
* The media treats the 4 men as jokes, because they seem ridiculous
* Patel becomes more unnerved
* After one of his shows, Lennon and McCartney corner him and beat him up
* At that point, James convinces Patel to make it right
* He does, by forming the band The Beatles with the real Beatles and holding his own concert on the roof
* They suck
* Patel says, “Sorry guys, I tried” and they thank him for the opportunity
* They’re awesome and they’re huge!