THE BOYS IN THE BAND
The Beatles run from a stampede of girls in the opening sequence of “A Hard Day’s Night.” The boy band tries to elude them by hiding inside telephone booths, behind newspapers, and facial hair. It’s a silly scene and it rightly sets the jovial spirit of the film. It’s a welcome attitude compared to today’s grandstanding singers. There is no whiff of self-importance. There is neither cliche proclamation of “living the dream” nor display of bling-blinding indulgence. If one forgets that the Beatles are a cultural phenomena, the film simply shows four mischievous boys, running around as they perform one song after another.
The plot is indeed thin as we follow John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr in their casual misadventures. Tagging along are their babysitting manager and Paul’s grandfather, who is a clean old man (as opposed to dirty). Watching the film definitely changed my impression of the band members. Growing up, I have always known them as legends who are responsible for classic songs. Lennon and McCartney are considered songwriting geniuses; their lyrics quoted as if they’re Shakespeare. But the problem is I have always envisioned them old.
“A Hard Day’s Night” captures their youthful flair and it is the first time I finally understood their mass appeal. Who knew that four shaggy-haired British lads, singing earnest songs of love, could rock the world in hysteria? Indeed, some of the film’s best shots are female fans in orgasmic frenzy.
In contrast, the boys undermine the hype and keep their personalities naturally cheeky. Lennon is charismatically loony; McCartney a boyish goof. George is amusingly straight-faced and that head-bobbing Ringo is fussy about his drums. It’s not surprising that the boys are natural performers. They pull off offbeat dialogues written by screenwriter Alun Owen and embrace the madcap comedy of director Richard Lester. Plus, the camera absolutely loves them or, more specifically, the camera loves chasing them around.
As much I appreciated the movie, the story is bare and the characters are not fleshed out. It seems like you had to be knowledgeable of the era and of the band’s history to fill out the film’s inadequacy. To put it another way, I don’t think the film would be that successful if the viewer has never known the Beatles. Maybe it’s just my misfortune to be from another generation. Oh well, it is what it is. To quote a Beatle – let it be.
John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Norman Rossington, Victor Spinetti, and Wilfrid Brambell