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Clever Rom-Com 'Yesterday' Imagines a World Without the Fab Four 

click to enlarge yesterdayfilm.jpg

It's arguably tougher than ever to become a successful musician. While social media can help spread the good word, there's way more competition than there was in, say, the 1960s.

That's certainly something that Jack (Himesh Patel), the main character in Yesterday, and his manager Ellie (Lily James) understand all too well. At the film's start, we see Jack finally get a festival gig only to play in a remote tent to a small handful of fans.

Jack's had it and tells Ellie he's ready to give up the game. But then, something crazy happens. He gets in an accident while riding his bike and wakes up to a world where the Beatles never existed A Google search for "beatle" only comes up with references to "beetles" and Jack has the opportunity of a lifetime because he can pass off their songs as his own.

If you can accept its rather preposterous premise,Yesterday comes off as a remarkably clever, feel-good romantic comedy. The movie opens area-wide on Friday.

Once Jack realizes that the Beatles have somehow never existed in the world in which he now lives, he tries to reintroduce their songs. He plays "Yesterday" at a picnic, and his manager is taken aback because she's never heard him play the song before. Eventually, a record executive hears him playing a few Beatles songs and recognizes the quality of the songwriting. He records a couple of tracks and posts them online. They go viral, and before you can say "internet sensation," Jack befriends Ed Sheeran (who loses a songwriting battle to him in one funny scene) and jet sets off to L.A. to record his debut LP. In one hilarious segment, Sheeran even convinces Jack to change the lyrics of "Hey Jude" to "hey dude."

Predictably enough, Jack winds up with a mercenary manager (Kate McKinnon), who wants to turn him into a superstar at whatever the cost. "You make a ton of money and then we take most of it," she tells him.

Stardom, of course, comes with complications, and Jack becomes estranged from Ellie, who tells him she's always had feelings for him but felt they wouldn't be reciprocated. Jack doesn't know how to handle this news. He also grapples with his conscience since he feels guilty for playing Beatles tunes and pretending they're his.

The film wraps things up a little too neatly at the end, but Patel deserves praise for deftly handling the singing and guitar playing and making his character believable at the same time. It's an impressive performance especially given that it's his first major film role.

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