The Beatles: Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years - Review
Review by Rob Carnevale
RON Howard has delivered an affectionate tribute to The Beatles during the peak of their success with Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years despite struggling to offer too much that’s new.
Told from a largely American perspective, this meticulously researched documentary is shot through with restored archive concert footage, as well as fresh interviews with Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney and anecdotes from some of their biggest celebrity fans (including Sigourney Weaver and Whoopi Goldberg).
It’s also laced with a bittersweet vibe as the last third of Howard’s film delves into the physical and mental toll the touring years took on the Fab Four as well as America’s pivotal role in their decision to stop touring completely, following the country’s backlash to John Lennon’s now notorious Jesus comment in an interview.
The first two thirds, meanwhile, offer a whirlwind account of how The Beatles rose to prominence with their boyish good looks and snappy, genre-defining song-writing and then hit the road, hard, culminating in one of the biggest [and most iconic] concerts of all time at Shea Stadium in 1965. There is an extended, 2-hour plus version that offers more footage from this event.
But for the most part, Howard cuts the film in such a way as to capture some sense of the breathless nature of The Beatles’ journey, as they dart between both sides of the Atlantic and in and out of the recording studio – noting that they made their money from being on the road rather than through any lucrative record deal.
As their phenomenon grew, however, so did their standing in world history. And it’s the band’s relationship to events in America that Howard finds particularly interesting, with landmark moments of US history, such as the JFK assassination and the Civil Rights Movement, juxtaposed with the mania surrounding the band. Indeed, their reaction to some of those key events proves fascinating – most notably their response to the possibility of segregation at one of their Deep South concerts.
Goldberg, for her part, describes them as ‘colourless’, as if to underline the all-encompassing popularity of their music.
Elsewhere, there is a lot of amusement to be found in seeing a young Sigourney Weaver singing along at another concert, or a US presenter falling for a Lennon gag and calling the singer ‘Eric’ during an impromptu interview. Live footage, meanwhile, affords the welcome opportunity to revisit their still timeless hits.
If there’s a criticism, it’s that Howard’s film moves too fast to offer anything genuinely probing, even when interviewing McCartney and Starr in the present day. And his film stops just at the moment in their career when things became really interesting [the recording of the Sgt Pepper album]. For Beatles’ die-hards, meanwhile, it probably doesn’t offer anything particularly new in terms of footage or revelation.
But in the main, this is a breezy, celebratory piece that recaptures the energy of the band in their prime, while also being mindful of the moments that contributed to their eventual decline.
Running time: 106mins/2hrs 18mins
UK Release Date: September 15, 2016