We’ve settled in for the night to watch the CNN Democratic Presidential Debate, so I figure it’s as good a time as any to start my second day debrief.
Despite being exhausted by jet lag and obscene humidity, I woke up early to accompany Grandma at L.A. Fitness.
She got me a temporary membership at her gym for the week, and it had all the same amenities that I’d normally use.
Though it was arguably more fun because I could stand above the crowds with cardio machines on the second floor:
While there I got to meet all of her gym friends. It was a little weird, but in an interesting kind of way. Like looking into a person’s secret double life.
After that we hit their local supermarket to perpetuate my vague sense of voyeurism.
The gym and supermarket were nice reprieves from the heat, which I’ve come to find are godsends because WOW is it ever hot in Florida.
Grandma and Grandpa decided that we should go out to the movies later in the afternoon to continue our A/C hopping.
We saw Yesterday, that film which asks what would happen if The Beatles suddenly didn’t exist.
I have… A lot of things to say about Yesterday.
But I’ll get to that later. Don’t want to conflate my dislike for the movie with my enjoyment of the day.
If nothing else the experience of going was worthwhile, even if the movie wasn’t.
We were going to a special restaurant for dinner until storm clouds rolled in. So we shifted plans and went to a less outdoors-y experience with Renzo’s Pizzeria.
Grandma and Grandpa say they’ve been going to this sweet little Italian joint for years, and I can see why. The pizza was very good.
As was the company. I got to hear the stories how Grandpa quit biting his nails (a request from Grandma when they were dating) AND how he quit smoking (thanks to a bet with someone who was supposed to lose weight and wound up gaining it).
Also, this was a thing:
From far away the mouse looked like it had demon teeth, but it just has the Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff mouth.
Which is way funnier.
After dinner we came home, had some tea, put on the debate and the rest is history.
But I think it’s time for a much less divisive subject than politics: Movies.
I’m going to tear Yesterday apart under the cut, so if you don’t care about that sort of thing (and I wouldn’t blame you), go ahead and get back to your lives.
Tomorrow I’m thinking it’s time to finally hit the pool, so stay tuned for that and other exciting developments.
Are there any positives I can list for Yesterday?
… The soundtrack is good. Obviously.
But that’s the only really overt positive. Spoilers ahead.
The most shocking thing about this movie was finding out it was directed by the guy who did Slumdog Millionaire, shot by the guy who did Room and edited by the guy who did Kingsman.
Yesterday genuinely looks like a student film with a budget.
It’s full of pastel Suicide Squad title cards, wacky visual effects (my favorite being lead Himesh Patel in “the internet” world from The Emoji Movie) and shots that looked artsy for the sake of self-aggrandizing.
For example, there were a ton of nonsensical dutch angles and rapid environmental cuts or flashbacks that were awkward and uncomfortable.
I’m not a cinematographer, and I imagine the style was intentionally disorienting because that’s how the protagonist feels as he’s stuck in an unusual Beatles-less world and becomes wracked with guilt trying to take advantage of it.
But then why are the same visual techniques used before the Beatles amnesia plot?
This amateurish style became more jarring when well-known celebrities appeared: Ed Sheeran (as himself), Kate McKinnon (as a painfully one-note, money-grubbing music producer) and Lamorne Morris (as a kitchy marketing guru) included.
To be fair, Lily James (the love interest for Patel) is big name too. More than the relatively unknown lead. So celebrity appearances might not be jarring to everyone.
But James makes for a good transition into Yesterday‘s characters.
Her performance as the schoolteacher and manager who has loved Patel since childhood was my favorite for a large portion of the movie. I liked their chemistry, and she was about as charmingly British as they come.
Then they dialed up the “it’s me or your career” trope and she died in the transition.
Pushing Patel away when he moved to Los Angeles because she wanted to be the sole focus of his life felt like a selfish anachronism in an era where technology could have easily facilitated a long-distance relationship as they both pursued careers.
Then they still get together… Despite her being in an otherwise happy relationship during Patel’s absence.
But it’s okay that she never REALLY cared about her happy relationship, because the boyfriend gets with James’ roommate who appeared once in a five-second scene.
Patel’s character was kind of unlikable throughout, but not of his own accord.
He fits the role well: A pretty good singer and underdog that lets fame get to his head.
One of the film’s recurring jokes is that Patel is too schlubby unkempt to be successful even with The Beatles’ songwriting. So many people say it that he comes to believe it.
Obviously it’s a riff to build the main character’s guilt at “stealing” songs. But he doesn’t seem as unappealing as the supporting cast suggests, and there’s a vague sense that we’re unintentionally meant to see the berating as the result of race.
Not that he’s too fat or has too messy a beard to succeed, but that he’s too brown to be as good as four young, white brits.
That might just be my reading, though. And the rest of the jokes throughout the film were… Harmless.
They relied heavily on dry British humor and using Beatles songs to signal the main character’s turmoil (singing “Help” at his lowest moment). I’m also a little uncomfortable with how they choose to represent a member of The Beatles.
But my grandparents are less nitpicky assholes than me, and seemed to enjoy the humor well enough.
My last major problem with Yesterday was how it handled its premise.
I like the idea of a “what if” world without an explanation for the cause (the best we get is a vague Y2K-style blackout). It’s the main reason I wanted to see this movie.
It doesn’t matter why this scenario happened if they handle it’s existence well.
But the movie actively make audiences want to care why the incident happened as though building up to an explanation.
The Beatles weren’t the only things to disappear in Yesterday. So did Coca-Cola, cigarettes and Harry Potter. Patel’s character isn’t the only one who forgot these cultural relics.
But the build-up and intrigue turns out to just be a recurring joke.
There is no reveal. The story ends in this weird world. I may have been thinking too hard about it, but I was encouraged to do so by the recurring connection of seemingly random items like The Beatles and Coca-Cola.
If you want a purely “what if” story where the cause of the change didn’t matter because it’s about a man learning to choose love over fame, don’t bring the change up so often that it looks like you’re writing a secret sci-fi mystery.
I had a great time going to the movies with my Grandparents, but I would not recommend Yesterday. It’s a great idea that I feel was squandered in execution.
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