You think Danny Boyle, and your mind goes to “The Beach,” “28 Days Later,” “Sunshine,” “Slumdog Millionaire.”
You think Richard Curtis, and you remember “Four Weddings and a Funeral” (amazing), “Notting Hill,” “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” “Love Actually” (best Christmas movie of all time).
Then you see all the press writings about “Yesterday” that’s full of the music of the Beatles, and you rush to see it, and you wonder what happened.
This is what happened. Time moves on, and the money and fame, the reputation and awards fade away, and the rent on your mansion and insurance is due, and you want to be Danny Boyle again. You want to be Richard Curtis again.
So, I imagine, someone comes up with this idea: What if you woke up one morning humming “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and it brings back glorious memories of “Strawberry Fields,” and yes, “Yesterday.” So you get your guitar and start singing these to your friends, and they think you’re a genius and they ask you, “Where did you get the ideas for those?”
This is what, in Boyle and Curtis’ film, happens to young Jack Malik (newcomer Himesh Patel) who wants to be a rock star, but he’s stuck in his job as a warehouse clerk in something like Amazon.
He plays at weddings and bar mitzvahs and poorly attended music festivals in small English towns where the elderly sit on lawn chairs and toddlers run around in front of the stage.
Jack has a girlfriend (the wonderful Lily James from “Downton Abby” and “Churchill”) who loves him and manages him, and he loves her, and we fall in love with both of them. This is going to be the story of a wannabe who doesn’t make it, but settles for second best.
Nope. One night while out on his motorbike, thunder roars, lighting flashes, the world’s power grid mysteriously shuts down. While witnessing all of this, Jack runs into a truck. He wakes up in the hospital with his girl by his side. “You’re gonna be all right.”
Well, he’s not. He has lost two front teeth and grown a beard and the Beatles never existed. That’s right, Nobody ever heard of them. Yes, that’s the plot.
In a little under two hours, Jack will give up convincing his friends and family and millions of fans that he did not write these songs. Paul and George, Ringo and John wrote them, he screams. It doesn’t work. He becomes the biggest star and decides to go along with it.
The rest of the movie is big and noisy, with characters cut from “Love Actually,” who speak in different British dialects, mumble their lines, take the money and run.
Jack becomes rich and famous by purloining the genius of the Beatles.
This is what David Sedaris meant when he wrote “Theft by Finding.”
“In the U.K.,” he wrote, “If you discover something of value and keep it, that’s ‘theft by finding.’” True. You can Google it.
Sorry, Jack. You’re guilty of theft by finding and you’re going to have to make amends. You’re an interesting actor. Keep reading other scripts.
Sorry, Danny and Richard, you messed up what might have been a good idea if properly constructed, and you’ll have to make amends.
Oh yes, “Saturday Night Live’s” brilliant Kate McKinnon is here as an avaricious star maker. Kate, you’re a comic genius. Call your agent and let me talk to him.

J.P.  Devine, of Waterville, is a former stage and screen actor.


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