Music: On the Stage and On the Screen

Summer in Telluride means music festivals. From Bluegrass to Blues and Brews, from RIDE to Jazz Festival — our little town is invaded by music fans. This summer, music lovers with a taste for nostalgia can also get their music fix on the big screen. Rocketman, with it’s amazing musical and acting tour de force — Taron Egerton channeling Elton John — seems to have started a rock music biopic craze. It’s still playing in some theaters. Perhaps it was actually Bohemian Rhapsody, directed by the same director as Rocketman, Dexter Fletcher, that started this music film craze. This summer there are many films featuring musicians or their music in biopics, documentaries and romantic comedies.

There’s a great documentary that celebrates the music that came out of LA’s Laurel Canyon, Echo in the Canyon and a look back at David Crosby’s career; the story of how he survived four decades having dealt with addiction, prison and heartbreak called Remember My Name. August brings Blinded by the Light, a coming-of-age film set in India. It’s inspired by the true tale of a Muslim teenager who finds himself through the music of Bruce Springsteen. There’s even a trailer for a behind-the-scenes look at the K-Pop band BTS on tour (Bring The Soul).

Yesterday has a simple premise: what if there was a world-wide power outage and when the lights came up, only one man remembered The Beatles and their music? Director Danny Boyle spins this charming tale of struggling singer-songwriter Jack Malick and what he does with this gift. Jack is played with warmth and a great deal of befuddlement by Himesh Patel, the British actor and writer best-known for his role on the EastEnders films. When his unexpected good fortune makes him a superstar, he must learn to navigate fame, a greedy manager (a brittle Kate McKinnon) and receiving advice from Ed Sheeran.

There’s a joy in watching people “discover” The Beatles songs and the snippets of the songs are played with great gusto. It’s interesting to think about how these songs were received back when they were hits and if modern audiences would be as enamored of them. Jack’s close friends are shown supporting him even in his failing sets at the local pub and his parents have the realistic hope that his songwriting and performing career will end. When his career takes off, it’s sweet to see their whole-hearted support.

The key relationship with his biggest supporter and first manager, played with sweetness by Lily James, is where the film loses it’s footing. Instead of weak excuses to keep them apart, a stronger storyline would’ve let Jack tire of his small-town love or stray into temptation’s path…but this sweet fairly tale, story by Richard Curtis of Love Actually fame, doesn’t dig deep. It’s nice that the action moves at a good pace, but there’s not enough time spent on conflict or introspection.

If you’re a Beatle’s fan or a British Rom Com fan, you’ll find this a fun diverting film. Himesh Patel transitions from a woebegone lad playing for a few friends in a chips shop to an International superstar without sacrificing his innate niceness. The relationships ring true, the songs are performed with real heart and there are some laughs along the way.

Drinks with Films Review: Two pints of British lager (out of five)

About Time —- no, it’s really ABOUT FAMILY

About Time is a film with a nifty plot device, time travel, but make no mistake, this is a heart-warming story about family.

Within the perfect running time of 123 minutes, the director wisely allows time for the audience to get to know the film’s charming and eccentric characters and for the actors to express some nuance of each personality within the frenetic pace of the film.  Using the time travel ploy, scenes are replayed multiple times with subtle changes in the outcome.  This creates a space for the actors to reveal more about their relationships and presents the audience with a way to experience each character from a new perspective.  Richard Curtis, who also directed Love Actually and Four Weddings and a Funeral, obviously knows that births, deaths and marriages are good plot devices in About Time, he uses time travel AND dramatic family milestones to showcase some wonderful performances by his remarkable cast.

 Has Bill Nye ever been given such a wonderful role as the time-traveling, novel-loving father?  And what a brilliant turn by the young Irish actor, Domnah Gleeson!  From a few bit parts in films and a memorable role in the Harry Potter series (as Bill Weasley–the older, dragon-riding brother of Ron), Domnah Gleeson is Tim.  He’s in every scene and with his remarkable, expressive face (and ginger hair), he draws us in and makes each experience seem real.

This is a great film to bring the whole family to…though there is a quick sex scene and a few adult situations, so stick to the teens and older crowd.  This is a great film for you to bring your dad!  About Time is a rare film that showcases a father’s love for his family and a wonderful father/son relationship.  There is true pathos here and if some scenes are a bit twee, the characters are so fully-fleshed out and realistic, so it’s easy to forgive.

Rachel McAdams, in her third time-traveling film, is a not glamorized but instead, wins the boy through charm, intelligence and good humor…and there’s even a scene where Tim is tempted by a blond beauty and runs home to his true love; Rachel’s character.  A detail that made me smile; this is a woman who loves to sleep–really loves to sleep!  A film that celebrates family and sacrifice, and entreats you to live each moment as fully as you can…this film is a real charmer!

Rating: 4 cups of tea

Bechdel Rating: There are a few discussions among the female cast members that are about friendship and life goals but the focus is mainly on the relationships. A-

Additional interesting tidbits from imdb:

Rory towards the end of the film is reading the book ‘Trash’ which is Curtis’s next film (Curtis wrote the screenplay for both Trash and About Time)
This is the third movie in which Rachel McAdams stars as the love interest of a time traveler. The previous ones were The Time Traveler’s Wife, in which she played the titular wife to Eric Bana’s character and Midnight in Paris, in which she played the fiancée of Owen Wilson’s character.
Zooey Deschanel was originally cast as Mary but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts and Rachel McAdams was cast.
Richard Griffiths‘s last movie.
Shipped to theaters under the code name “Cupboard”.