Hit by a bus during a worldwide blackout, a struggling singer-songwriter awakes to a world in which the Beatles never existed and so steals the band’s material for his own. That’s the premise of Yesterday, which has audiences dancing. They give the film a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics, applying a 61% rating, aren't nearly as impressed. Four takes:
- It's "a wilfully naïve take on pop stardom … that sunnily dismisses 50 years of changing musical taste," according to Ryan Porter at the Toronto Star. The performance by lead Himesh Patel "does nothing to suggest Jack deserves to be a global superstar, best songs of all time or not." Luckily, Ed Sheeran "makes the most of his screen time, delivering some solid shots at his outsized celebrity persona," while Kate McKinnon as manager "delivers a sharply satirical take on music-industry greed."
- Sheila O'Malley at RogerEbert.com was left—in a word—"conflicted." McKinnon "almost single-handedly indicts the entire PR machinery of show business." But Yesterday "dodges many of its most interesting ideas," instead focusing on a romance "pieced together with cliches from other films." O'Malley also found issue with "a choice made late in the film. You'll know it when you see it. It felt cheap to me, and also strangely underdeveloped."
- Stephanie Zacharek might be alluding to the same choice as she criticizes "the romantic apex" of the film. "The old guard has long been selling women short, and Yesterday isn't helping," she writes at Time. Still, the film is "perfectly charming if you don't look too closely." And Patel's voice, "dusky and sweet, is perfectly enjoyable."
- It was all a bit dull for Darren Franich. "The music's good, duh," but "the movie mostly flattens the Beatles sound into singer-songwriter coffee rock," he writes at Entertainment Weekly. There's a "meandering plot" and a script "full of cheap gags" on top of that—though Lily James gets Franich's praise for "[acting] the hell out of a stale patient-love-interest role."
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