Skip to content

Montclair 2019: The British Are Coming!

May 13, 2019

Think of it as the Second British Invasion: Four music-themed films from the U.K. landed in New Jersey at this year’s Montclair Film Festival. One of them, Blinded by the Light, was aptly inspired by the Garden State’s own Bruce Springsteen, while the others were rooted in the sounds of Beatles, the Rolling Stones and classic Nashville. While two hit exhilarating high notes, the others feel somewhat out-of-tune.

The best of the bunch, Wild Rose, features a star-making performance by Jessie Buckley (Beast) as a Scottish single mom with dreams of country stardom. Like the Glaswegian love child of Coal Miner’s Daughter‘s Sissy Spacek and The Rose‘s Bette Midler, she simultaneously channels Loretta Lynn and Janis Joplin. Buckley’s matched by two-time Oscar nominee Julie Walters (Educating Rita, Billy Elliot) as her working-class ma who’d rather see Rose stay close to home and take care of her kids than chase her passion to Nashville. I’ve seen Wild Rose twice now — it also played at the Tribeca Film Festival — and both times it’s brought me both goosebumps and tears.

Blinded by the Light similarly deals with a young working-class Brit — in this case, the teenage son (the wonderful Viveik Kalra) of Pakistani immigrants in 1987 — who clashes with a parent (Kulvinder Ghir, a likely Oscar contender) over his ardent affinity for American music. Based on the true story of the Boss-obsessed journalist Sarfraz Manzhoor, this giddy crowd-pleaser skirts the edges of surrealism in sequences when tunes like “Promised Land” and “Born to Run” come alive on screen, yet the film wisely remains grounded in gritty reality. While focusing on the specifics of its Muslim lead characters’ lives, cowriter-director Gurinder Chadha has fashioned a universal tale of love and acceptance that could cross over to an even broader audience than her 2002 breakout hit, Bend It Like Beckham.

I wish I felt the same level of enthusiasm for Yesterday, but this high-concept fantasy from the wildly mismatched team of director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) and writer Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral) never transcends its gimmicky premise: What if a global power outage caused almost everybody on Earth to forget that the Beatles ever existed? Despite a charming lead performance from big-screen newcomer Himesh Patel as a struggling British singer-songwriter who takes advantage of this far-fetched situation, the film plays like a greatest-hits collection of rom-com clichés. Ed Sheeran and Kate McKinnon provide game support, but Lily James can’t redeem the thankless role of a friend-zoned manager who pines for Patel’s Jack Malik. Plus, Boyle’s and Curtis’ choice to ignore Jack’s ethnicity (aside from a sly White Album joke) only makes Yesterday seem even more generic.

Last, and sadly least, is The Quiet One, a documentary profile of Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman. Director Oliver Murray was given unprecedented access to Wyman’s exhaustive archive of his career and hasn’t been able to shed much light on the personality of the so-called “Stone Face.” The movie skims over the controversial parts of Wyman’s life — including his marriage to Mandy Smith, a model he met when he was 47 and she was 13. Only the film’s final scene, in which he breaks down in tears as he recalls meeting Ray Charles backstage at a concert and declining an offer to play on the soul legend’s next album because “I didn’t think I was good enough,” do we get any real insight into Wyman’s personality. It just goes to show, you can’t always get what you want.

From → Uncategorized

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: