A Hard Day’s Night

John, Paul, George and Ringo, otherwise known as The Rutles, spend their lives fleeing from screaming fans, aggravating their tour manager and generally larking about without a care in the world in this weekend-in-the-life snapshot as they prepare for a live show whilst looking after Paul’s grandfather (Wilfrid Brambell) along the way.   large_a_hard_days_night_blu-ray7alargest
I’m not what you’d call a Beatles fan. I don’t dislike them, I’m just not very familiar with their work, which may seem odd considering I’ve always lived in England, and yet here I am aged 27, having heard (before seeing this film) probably less than 10 songs from the Fab Four. I couldn’t even recognise which Beatle was which at the start of this film, except for McCartney, who has a more recognisable face considering I still see it around now and then. Now I’ve still heard less than 20 (there’s about 11 in this film, and I recognised 3 or 4) and I can safely say that their music is fine, I’ve just got no desire to listen to it. You don’t want to know what I’d rather listen to instead. Oh, and this film was selected for me to watch by Daniel Lackey from Forced Viewing and The Nightmare Gallery. Sorry Lackey, I just didn’t like it.A Hard Days Night (13)
So, the movie. Well, my first issue was there isn’t much of a plot. For me, this is a very bad sign, as a narrative is what I cling to most in movies. It’s not until the third act that there’s anything resembling a conflict in the film, with the four lads ricocheting from one location to another, occasionally breaking into song whenever the mood strikes them. I wasn’t exactly expecting some great dramatic story, but I was hoping for at least something that held together from one scene to the next. Alas I was left wanting, as it is clear this is supposed to be more humorous than cohesive, which would have been fine had I found much of it funny.

Comedy is, of course, subjective, so just because I barely cracked a smile doesn’t mean no-one else will, but nevertheless that was the case here. The delivery of many so-called-jokes was poorly timed, and some recurring gags began to grate after the first call-back (OK, Wilfrid Brambell was constantly called a dirty old man on Steptoe and Son, but does every character he meets need to point out that he’s “very clean” here? Just settle at once, please.). It also didn’t help that literally every character in this film is at least annoying and at best unbearable, meaning there is no one I want to spend any time with whatsoever, so thankfully the film is only 87 minutes long.
The only segments of the film I enjoyed at all came from Brambell, who showed an ability to both act and be funny, attributes not shared by pretty much anyone else in the film. Whether he was pretending to be a waiter in a casino in order to con tips to gamble with, or mocking Ringo for reading a book instead of going out and living life, the few chuckles I had all invariably came from him.
Would I have preferred this film if it had starred a band I genuinely liked? Possibly. Put The Rolling Stones in there and I’d at least appreciate the music,, although I wasn’t much of a fan of Gimme Shelter, so maybe not. If I’d wanted to listen to music, I’d stick on an album. If I want to watch comedy, I’ll watch or listen to a stand-up routine (speaking of which, head over here to buy Nick Rehak’s comedy album). When I watch a film I want to see a story, and be entertained. Said story can implement music, and it’s encouraged that it be funny, but it shouldn’t sacrifice the actual narrative in favour of either of those aspects.

Choose Life 5/10

8 thoughts on “A Hard Day’s Night

  1. Jay, here’s my advice. Go to your local library and borrow Abbey Road, Revolver, and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Listen to them straight through. Then maybe (just maybe) your opinion may change a little. As far as there being no narrative, I’m not sure how to counter that one. We all have our own opinions of movies and what we want out of them. To me, this is one of the great rock ‘n’ roll movies, and its meandering quality is one of the main reasons.

    • I popped into my local library today, and they had none of the albums you or Steve suggested. I’ve checked their online catalogue this evening, and there’s only 1-2 copies of each anywhere within the local 6 or so libraries, so I might have to wait a while, but I’ll try to track them down, or find a friend I can borrow them from (if any of them still have CDs these days).

      I can understand people enjoying the meandering nature of the film, but it’s just not something that appeals to me. I wanted to enjoy it, but it’s the same reason I didn’t get on with the likes of Slacker.

  2. I agree with Dan, and I’d add Rubber Soul. And you should listen to Revolver twice. There are bits of the White Album worth hearing as well, but there are also parts that you can skip without too much issue.

    I like the whimsy in this movie. I particularlly enjoy the scene where George is being looked at to be on a teen show but isn’t recognized as a member of the most popular band in the world at the time.

    • See, I found the level of recognition awarded to the guys changing from scene to scene to be just plain odd. Yes there’s a nice irony to that specific example, but elsewhere the inconsistency left me annoyed and confused.

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