‘Preposterous” may be an understatement for Danny Boyle’s latest film “Yesterday,” though “amusing” would qualify. The director who gave us 2008’s Academy Award-winning “Slumdog Millionaire” (it won eight, including one for Boyle) has outdone himself in the incredulous department again, using a relatively unknown Indian actor, as he used Dev Patel in “Slumdog.”
Himesh Patel is a 29-year-old singer and actor, known for his role in the popular BBC soap opera “EastEnders,” who makes his film debut in this. He plays Jack Malik, a young man struggling with what he and his best friend and road manager Ellie thought was a promising career as a musician. He writes and performs incredibly mediocre songs and performs in whatever venue Ellie schedules for him — usually to small crowds doing anything but listening to him.
Boyle was lucky enough to score the lovely Lily James (“Downton Abbey,” “Baby Driver,” “Darkest Hour” et al) to play Ellie, which knocked the street cred for “Yesterday” up several notches. As did Kate McKinnon and musician Ed Sheeran, playing himself (definitely not an actor). McKinnon plays his obnoxious manager, utilizing her Saturday Night Live characters’ idiosyncrasies more than necessary.
The storyline, which most of you know from the endless trailers we’ve seen for two months, is that Malik, biking home one night, gets hit by a truck in a 12-second world-wide blackout. He is fortunate enough to just suffer bruises, scratches and the loss of two front teeth. But he discovers also that no one knows who the Beatles are, nor any of their songs.
There are a couple of other things people have never heard of, like Coke, (yes, Pepsi is the favorite), and cigarettes. But it’s the Beatles’ music that Jack realizes could make him famous. And it does, even if his conscience and his love life suffer. On the fast track to stardom, Jack continues to just take Ellie for granted. She’s a math teacher, she can’t just run off around the world with him.
He gets his big break from Ed Sheeran, as I said, playing himself. He hears Jack on television and asks him to open for him in Moscow. He’s such a hit, Sheeran asks him to front him for his whole tour. And then Debra Hammer (McKinnon) sinks her teeth in him.
But Jack isn’t happy. Backstage after a concert, two Beatles fans approach him and tell him they know he plagiarized the songs, but they aren’t exposing him. They’re just happy he saved the songs for posterity. They even tell him John Lennon is alive, though now an old man, and give Jack his address.
You can see what’s coming a mile away. Stardom isn’t as much fun as Jack thought it would be. And he misses Ellie. He’s been so busy trying to remember lyrics to Beatles’ songs, it never occurred to him to tell her he misses her. He’s never even told her he loves her. And then of course, conscience kicks in.
Boyle’s film is a pleasant popcorn film. It’s not going to win any Oscars (especially for original music). But it will be especially enjoyable for Beatles fans. Gee, just the thought that John Lennon survived...
See you at the movies.
Toni Clem is a Paris resident and has been writing Deja View for more than 30 years.