Movie review: The Beatles: Eight Days a Week

Well just as the song they chose for the title of this doco isn't one of the Beatles' best, the film behind it is no A Hard Day's Night. 

But Eight Days a Week is a doco about the Beatles, the live band, rather than the pop geniuses. Coming with a remastered live album from the period, it's the latest semi-annual slab of Beatles for resale and directed by Ron Howard it's an enjoyable Fab-Four-for-Dummies wander through their heyday.

But no, it's no A Hard Day's Night, the classic 1964 rock-comedy starring the Beatles as the Beatles, which allowed you to imagine what it was like being a Beatle as the world exploded around them.

A scene from The Beatles: Eight Days a Week documentary, directed by Ron Howard.
A scene from The Beatles: Eight Days a Week documentary, directed by Ron Howard.

This one might feature the thoughts of the Fab Four (two heard and seen from the same deep well of archival footage which powered the 2000 Anthology television documentary series) talking about being in the eye of the hurricane.

But it actually does a better job of describing what it was like to have been a Beatlemaniac.

Initially there is a worry that, other than Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, the film's array of talking heads are mostly Howard's Facebook friends. Especially as first up is writer director Richard Curtis proclaiming he wouldn't be where he was today without them (which only made me wonder why he keeps using such dreadful songs in his movies).

And elsewhere we get Sigourney Weaver (who is seen as a girl in footage from the Hollywood bowl talking about being a besotted young fan) Elvis Costello (charting their musical progress), Eddie Izzard (on their English irreverence).

But then along comes Whoopi Goldberg. Her I-saw-the-Beatles-and-it-blew-my-mind story involving her mother and show at New York's Shea Stadium Show in 1965 is touching, funny and terrific.

So too is the anecdote of African-American historian Kitty Oliver who attended a show in Florida where the band had refused to play to segregated audiences and found herself mingling socially with white people of her own age for the first time.

There's enough of that kind of meaningful nostalgia through eyewitness accounts to give Eight Days A Week a point, other than just reminding us that, A) the Beatles were a good live band and B) They got so popular nobody could hear what a good live band they were over the screaming, so they gave up.

As a history lesson it skirts a few things. The cursory flashback to the early Hamburg years makes no mention of early members Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best. Manager Brian Epstein is introduced but his death and the effect that had on the band isn't touched upon.

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week documentary, directed by Ron Howard, is in cinemas this September.
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week documentary, directed by Ron Howard, is in cinemas this September.

And there's the occasional token Big Brain (like journalist Malcolm Gladwell) dragged in to tell us how come the world was suddenly awash with these things called teenagers or why the Beatles were right up there with Strauss and Mozart when it came to writing so many decent tunes.

The interviews with McCartney and Starr, their moptops still showing little sign of grey, don't really add to anything that's gone before.

And you have to wonder why, when the doco repeatedly makes the point that the quartet sought solace from the madness in their brotherhood, the surviving Beatles weren't interviewed together.

Seeing the rhythm section of the world's greatest band having a natter about the good old days would be something to see.

Seeing how they conquered the world is something to see, too. And there is some remarkable live footage and music within.

But Eight Days a Week doesn't add much to Beatle lore, other than offering a toe-tapping two hours.


Director: Ron Howard
Rating: M
Running time: 133 mins
Verdict: Reasonably fab

- NZ Herald

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