Backbeat

"Very Good"

Backbeat Review


If you think the story of the Beatles begins in February 1964 on the stage of The Ed Sullivan Show then you need a pretty serious history lesson. Backbeat provides it, traveling back in time to the earliest days of the '60s, when the Fab Four were a starving band of outsiders living a fun but also fairly hellish life on the mean streets of Hamburg.

You may have heard of Pete Best, the band's original drummer. He's on the scene here (not Ringo), and so is bassist Stuart Sutcliffe, the so-called "fifth Beatle," the one around whom this telling of the Beatles tale revolves.

More of an aspiring painter than an aspiring rock star, legend has it that Sutcliffe (Stephen Dorff, in the best performance of a very uneven career) stuck around as long as he did only because John Lennon (Ian Hart, playing Lennon in a film for the second time here), had a crush on him and urged him to stick with it. Lennon may have also had a thing for Astrid Kirchherr (Sheryl Lee), Sutcliffe's German photographer girlfriend and the person who gets the credit for giving the boys the haircuts that earned them so much early attention.

The film does a marvelous job of depicting the divey clubs of Hamburg where the leather-clad Beatles, hyped up on speed given to them by club owners eager to keep them playing all night, power through set after set of superfast R&B. The tracks recorded for the film by punk-leaning musicians have a real edge to them. More foot stompers than toe tappers, they sound youthful, energetic, even somewhat desperate.

As John and Stu carouse, circle around Astrid, and trade cutting barbs while they discuss Stu's future with the band, Paul McCartney (Gary Bakewell) and George Harrison (Chris O'Neill) are mere supporting players, serving mainly to complain about Stu's lack of professionalism. It's the interchanges between John and Stu that move the film along. John is ultimately unsuccessful in convincing Stu to keep at it, and Stu stays behind to study art when the Beatles head back to Liverpool in 1961. Stu sticks to his artistic guns, just as John sticks to his, and you wonder what Stu will think about that decision in the years that follow, until you learn that he doesn't live long enough to contemplate it.

It's Stu's extremely untimely death from a cerebral hemorrhage in April 1962 (at the age of 21) that gives the film its heartbreaking coda. Less than a year later, of course, the Beatles, with Best gone and Ringo in tow, are on their way to unimaginable fame, while nothing is left of Stu but a few rooms full of abstract canvases and a portfolio of photographs of him taken by his girlfriend.

Backbeat is a tragedy for sure, but it's a tragedy with one hell of a soundtrack.



Backbeat

Facts and Figures

Run time: 100 mins

In Theaters: Friday 15th April 1994

Distributed by: Gramercy Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 74%
Fresh: 25 Rotten: 9

IMDB: 6.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Stuart Sutcliffe, as John Lennon, as Paul McCartney, Chris O'Neill as George Harrison, Paul Duckworth as Ringo Starr, as Astrid Kirchherr

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The Party Movie Review

The Party Movie Review

Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) is on his way to becoming the new Woody Allen, which...

6 Below Movie Review

6 Below Movie Review

Based on an astonishing true survival story, this film is subtitled "Miracle on the Mountain",...

Mother Movie Review

Mother Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky doesn't make fluffy movies, and has only had one genuine misfire (2014's Noah)....

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019....

On the Road Movie Review

On the Road Movie Review

Wolf Alice fans are likely to be rather disappointed by this hybrid documentary-drama about the...

Borg/McEnroe Movie Review

Borg/McEnroe Movie Review

Skilfully made by Swedish filmmaker Janus Metz (the award-winning Armadillo), this film is essentially a...

Advertisement
The Glass Castle Movie Review

The Glass Castle Movie Review

There are quite a few terrific moments in this true story, based on the memoir...

Home Again Movie Review

Home Again Movie Review

Reese Witherspoon is so likeable that she can carry even the most hackneyed of romantic...

Brimstone Movie Review

Brimstone Movie Review

An unnerving Western with a sharp female perspective, this film is a series of gruesome...

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Review

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Review

Two years ago, Kingsman: The Secret Service seemed to come out of nowhere, ruffling feathers...

Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

This biopic about Winnie the Pooh author A.A. Milne may look like the usual lushly...

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.