Great moments in The Beatles: Eight Days a Week come from right inside Abbey Road Studios. Audio ripped straight from reel-to-reel recorders whirs up, and you hear a choice riff from a classic like the film’s title track – but then interrupted by one of the boys flubbing a lyric or making a joke.
The blooper reel-like moments feel intimate and candid, and they set the documentary apart. Particularly early footage, of the four as teenagers, feels like you’re being let in on a secret. For every crowd of fainting teenage girls (which we’ve seen before), there’s a clip like Lennon working out the harmonies on Help!, or introducing himself as “Eric” to a unknowing newscaster.
Between mountains of archival footage are dozens of interviews that range from cringe-inducing to genuinely fascinating. New conversations with Ringo and Paul, in addition to extensive archived interviews with John and George from decades ago, give context to high-quality footage of live performances.
Less enjoyable are the celebrities just giving their hot takes on what the Beatles meant. Words from Malcolm Gladwell, Whoopee Goldberg and Richard Curtis don’t add anything, and feel out of place in the illustrious band’s company. There are exceptions of course: Larry Kane, a journalist assigned to cover the Beatles ‘beat’ for a year in 1962, is a star interviewee. He, along with a handful of roadies and tour managers, tell the madness (and magic) from the perspective of someone working in the thick of it.
Contrary to the tagline, Eight Days a Week shows stories we know about a band we don’t. A good chunk of footage isn’t new – but the new snippets are something special. They show a goofy, powerfully personal side of the band that never seems to come across in Beatlemania 101.
CAST: Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, George Harrison
DIRECTOR: Ron Howard
SYNOPSIS: Based on the first part of the Beatles’ career, from 1962-66, the period in which they toured and captured the world’s acclaim, featuring rare and exclusive footage.