We all know what a 65% Rotten Tomatoes rating means. It means that the film in question has problems. It means that if Yesterday was a kid in science class who’s just taken a pop quiz, he’d be looking at a failing grade. Not horribly failing but a notch or two below the minimum passing grade of 70.
Regional film critic friend: “Yesterday is more of a Richard Curtis than a Danny Boyle thing. The premise is so offbeat that it actually works. The totally arbitrary nature of other things that don’t exist in human memory after a worldwide blackout — Coke, cigarettes, Harry Potter — is kind of fun.
“Himesh Patel is a very sympathetic lead, and Lily James is a real cutie. Patel’s singing isn’t great, but good enough for the purposes of the film.
“The first hour is a lot of fun but Yesterday sags in the middle, and you get the feeling that screenwriter Richard Curtis has boxed himself into a corner with his premise. The ending is a typical feel-good Curtis production, which will probably turn a certain amount of people off, and the (spoiler here) confessional scene in front of a Wembley audience is one of those ‘no one would ever in a million years do this in front of a group of total strangers’ kind of sequence that is used all too often in films these days.
“Yesterday is finally a reminder, as if we needed to be reminded, of how truly great the Beatles catalogue is.”
Friend who moderates a film series for 40-plus types: “I held a preview screening of Yesterday last night at the usual venue. Not only did it sell out — but the audience was probably half-kids, from about 10 into their teens. Most there with their parents. This sold out strictly on word-of-mouth and an email blast to the membership — in other words, a lot of people have seen this trailer and apparently want to see this movie.
“As an unabashed Richard Curtis fan, I was disappointed in this movie when I went to a press screening a couple of weeks ago. I felt the film had serious third-act problems, that he didn’t know how to finish it. I also felt he seriously underwrote Kate McKinnon‘s role, as well as the role of the sidekick/roadie. The latter should have had the inspiredly random humor of the Rhys Ifans character in Notting Hill but doesn’t.
“Watching it again last night, the latter two criticisms still held — but they didn’t bother as much. And the rest of it played really well for me. Better yet, it was a big, big hit with the audience, which ranged in age from 10 to 80. And there’s that surprising scene near the end that, at a minimum, will take your breath away and bring a lump to your throat. A lot of people last night walked out smiling, while wiping away tears.
“Plus, as noted, the music, which remains incredibly vital. This, the Crosby doc and Rolling Thunder make this a boomer’s musical wet dream of a summer.”