Director Ron Howard steps in to bring us a 2016 documentary of The Beatles, complete with new live footage and recounts from the surviving members; does it inspire Beatlemania once more? Lee reviews.
As a documentary, Eight Days a Week has more than a number of shortcomings. Dip your toes into the wealth of material already written about The Beatles, their inner-workings, the relationships between the artists and with the world at large and you’ll see both a far clearer and far deeper picture of what tore at the World’s Greatest Band. Certainly a picture much too fine to trim into an hour-forty-five of concert material, interview excerpts, dubious glossy recounts and hundreds of still photos of the boys.
Add to the trimmings some bizarre editorial decisions: did we really need fake smoke effects on the pictures? Why are we glossing over the marijuana-use, and politely side-stepping even Larry Kane’s honest reactions on the matter? Thousands of girls were at these shows right; couldn’t we get a few more accounts from surviving aficionados? And if this is for the fans, and we can only assume so because we spend frightfully little time introducing ourselves to The Beatles as people before the band thus impressing this natural assumption that we all know who we’re talking about, then isn’t this all a little obvious? If we’re already at the scene of the crime, a magnifying glass is going to be more useful than a window.
It’s a little misguided, and as a documentary or, god forbid, research material, it’s a little useless. There’s more to say and you can guarantee someone has said it better. Still, the selling point for this piece is decently explored: Beatles, the touring band. What was it like to be around at the time of Beatlemania? When did it dissolve? Why did it dissolve? What was it like being around the Beatles when thousands of girls were trying to claw a little bit of hair to call their own? These are questions that are answered with relative satisfaction, and the documentary does do a fair job presenting the experience of The Beatles.
Their live performances, and the reaction of teenagers to them, are still unparalleled all these years later. We’ve seen glimpses in the One Directions and the Biebers, but nothing like the unparalleled frenzy that the Beatles inspired and the unsuspecting world they tore apart in the process. The film absolutely perfects the sense of claustrophobia being in that position must occupy, and the inevitable exhaustion holding that position required. It was a miracle Lennon didn’t crack earlier, and it makes a solid case for having a great sense of humour; it’s the shield the media can’t crack.
There’s a remarkable sense of injustice throughout the piece, as everyone and everything clamours to get a piece of the boys and their talent. Presented as purity surrounded by the impure, it’s a narrative that seems a little too idyllic for the reality of the band, but its vilifying of media, record companies and our own conservative sensibilities strikes a chord non-the-less.
For the experience of Beatlemania, Eight Days a Week makes for a terrifying watch, especially to newcomers. For more seasoned Beatles fans, there is a little too much ‘been there, done that’ to the affair to really warrant a look, but there are certainly worse productions out there. The smarter option is still to listen to some of the music, watch a few performances without any commentary and then do some reading, but if you want a streamlined approach you could do much worse.