An honest review from a Beatles fan
I had some trouble figuring out what the rules are around the Beatles? “The Beatles?” Or “Beatles?” “A Beatles song?” Or “the Beatles song?”
It kinda starts abruptly, do you think you could add a more general introduction here?
John Lennon: “I don’t think the Beatles revolve around the four people. It might be a fucking job.”
Lennon’s admission comes from a private conversation with Paul McCartney during the recording of the Beatles’ 1969 album, Let It Be. What’s interesting about this particular exchange is that neither of the two knew they were being recorded.
It’s moments like this that make Peter Jackson’s documentary miniseries, The Beatles: Get Back, nothing short of a miracle for Beatles fans. The three-part series uses never-before-seen footage of the band as they write, record, and eventually perform their twelfth and final studio album.
It wouldn’t be too bold to assume that most music fans have some sort of relationship with the Beatles. Perhaps you’ve heard “Hey Jude” on the radio, or maybe your dad has given you a mind-numbing lecture on the influence Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band had on album structure. Needless to say, the Beatles are kind of a big deal.
Given the magnitude of their influence, it’s no wonder the announcement of a documentary detailing the production of a Beatles album garnered so much excitement. And when it was revealed that this documentary was going to be an eight-hour miniseries, that excitement only seemed to grow. Yet where there is excitement, disappointment tends to be close by.
Having seen Get Back twice, I can confirm that my excitement was never overcome. However, I can only confirm this as a Beatles fan.
It’s undeniable that the length of this series is a hurdle. Eight hours is a long time to spend with anyone, especially four guys in their mid-to-late twenties. This length will inevitably produce two camps. The first will say this series is too long, and the second will suggest it’s not long enough.
As a fan, I fall firmly into the latter camp. There are moments in the series where the four-piece band sit down to play their instruments, and by the time they stand up they have almost completed a classic song. On one occasion, Lennon and McCartney write the chorus to “Get Back” in real time. On another, the band records several of their songs on a rooftop to countless fans who crowd the streets of London. These are the moments that make the runtime worth it for fans.
The only editing note I would have suggested to Peter Jackson would be to cut out the three minutes of Yoko Ono screaming into a microphone. Yes, it’s as unsettling as it sounds.
As for those in the aforementioned first camp, the ones who might wish Jackson was capable of directing shorter movies, their critique is also understandable. Although the series does show genuinely magical moments, there may come a point where viewers have seen enough of the magic. More than likely, these viewers will be those with little to no relationship with the band. Nevertheless, there is something else about Get Back that separates it from most other documentaries.
A traditional documentary has structure. There may be a narrator, interviews, and other storytelling devices which work towards creating a cohesive story. In the case of Get Back, other than identifying the day in focus, none of these techniques are used. It is completely structureless.
The series is composed completely of footage from their 1969 recording sessions. A narrator never intervenes in the middle of an interaction, and no interviewee ever reflects on how they were feeling. McCartney from 2021 never reveals if McCartney from 1969 was annoyed with Yoko’s constant studio presence. This is all up for the audience to interpret.
Now, the big question: is The Beatles: Get Back worth my time? If you have little relationship with The Beatles, I recommend at the very least starting it. This is the benefit of the series being streamable on Disney+. Turn it on, see if it’s your speed, and if you find these Brits insufferable, turn it off.
As for those who are Beatles fans, by not watching, you are depriving your toes from lots of tapping. What are you waiting for?
You can watch The Beatles: Get Back on Disney+.