Review: The Beatles: Eight Days a Week
I’m a Beatles fan in that I have (and love most of) their albums and have watched most of the TV specials and documentaries over the years. That makes me and anyone even more passionate than me the wrong person for this 2016 Ron Howard (“Splash”, “Parenthood”, “Apollo 13”, “Cinderella Man”) documentary. Howard’s film seems to be aimed at…I dunno, casual American fans of The Beatles? I can’t imagine youngsters giving a crap about the subject to begin with in order to want to see the film, despite Howard apparently making the film for millennials to help them understand Beatlemania. I’m 37 and barely found a damn thing in this I didn’t already know, as would anyone familiar with the 8-part “The Beatles Anthology” doco among other things (And if you’re not familiar with it- You must familiarise yourself with it at once, it’s essential viewing!). So I can only go on my own experience of viewing this film, and for the most part I was underwhelmed and unenlightened by what Howard had to offer. Your mileage may differ.
I guess it’s fitting in a way that Richie Cunningham would make a film about an iconic 60s group, but that ultimately adds little, if anything to the film. Hell, he even regurgitates the whole ‘Bigger than Jesus’ thing that just sends me to sleep these days. Been there, done that. This film focuses mostly on the touring years of The Beatles (1963-66), especially from an American perspective. I guess it’s interesting to see The Fab Four in the US during a period of segregation in America, but I’m personally not sure it’s here for any other reason than it’s a film by an American filmmaker for a mostly American audience. The Beatles were hardly MLK, or Rosa Parks. Or even Elvis, really. Still, at least this part of the film was something I hadn’t really seen before. The one clip I absolutely did love was a bit at a Liverpool soccer game where a bunch of rough nut football fans sing ‘She Loves You’. It’s bloody marvellous. I also liked seeing director Richard Lester talk about the film “A Hard Day’s Night”. It’s a shame though, that The Fab Four themselves didn’t much like the experience of making the subsequent “Help!”, which in addition to being one of their best albums, is for me the much stronger and less snarky film. So there is interesting stuff here, including fun photos of the guys with Muhammad Ali. It’s just not enough to sustain the film’s length, not for me at least and I could give two shits what Whoopi Goldberg, Elvis Costello, or Eddie Izzard think about The Beatles. That’s a pretty sorry list of talking heads right there (I love Sigourney Weaver but the rest of these ‘celebrities’…yikes), though at least we also hear from The Fab Four themselves (archival footage for George and John, obviously). Speaking to the whole ‘screaming girls’ nonsense, I guess a lot of people would probably say that The Beatles were kinda one of the first ‘boy bands’. I suppose that’s true but most boy bands today just have the screaming fans, and that’s it. If the fans would shut up, they’d realise that the groups by and large just aren’t terribly talented. The Beatles, on the other hand definitely had talent, not to mention played their own instruments. Their somewhat simplistic pop songs were (and still are) better than anyone else’s, and better than a lot of other artists on their best day. However, the screaming fans ‘Beatlemania’ thing was just one side of their story, so it’s a shame that this doco focuses mostly on that, I think. To me, the guys themselves and their music were the important things, and all of that has already been well-covered too.
This is every Beatles doco you’ve ever seen, just with a bit of an American flavour to it. For those already among the cult, there’s very little here you won’t already know. For me, it’s a bit of a chore, beyond the musical snippets which as always, are superlative. Extremely disappointing given the subject and filmmaker.