Fans of The Beatles are unlikely to learn anything new from The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years, Ron Howard’s Hulu documentary covering the band’s touring years, ‘62 to ‘66. While the doc does not offer much insight into the group (they were apparently quite popular in the 60’s), it does offer the opportunity to spend time with The Beatles at their most unified, before they were worn down by clashing egos and the rigors of touring. The young Beatles were supernaturally charming and so Eight Days a Week effortlessly yields a pleasant couple hours of non-fiction entertainment.
As far as interesting enough subjects for a documentary to coast upon go, they don’t come any more engaging than The Beatles. The pleasure of Eight Days a Week is watching the band be playful with the media and with each other, clearly, justifiably, delighted with themselves. Watching the four in interviews, it is striking how quick-witted they are, as in a situation in which an uninformed reporter asks John “Which one are you?” and Lennon, without missing a beat, responds “Eric,” the reporter not realizing that there is no “Eric.” Through the footage of the band comes across as much smarter than the reporters interviewing them, and remarkably patient with the superior attitudes adopted by those reporters, who ask condescending questions about their “overnight success” and when “the bubble will burst.” The Beatles remain gracious with the media, teasing them but never adopting the petulance of Don’t Look Back-era Bob Dylan. The reporters can’t entirely be blamed for their dismissiveness, they thought of themselves as serious newsmen demeaned by an assignment covering a flash-in-the-pan teen sensation. Thy couldn’t have known that the teenie boppers would be proved correct in regard to the cultural importance of The Beatles.
The weak point of Eight Days a Week is its interviews. Surviving band members, Paul and Ringo, don’t really have anything left to say about The Beatles and the couple of famous concert attendees (Whoopi Goldberg, Sigourney Weaver) don’t have fresh takes on the experience of seeing The Beatles first-hand (“They were great!” “It was loud!”). More engaging is the footage of newscasters’ interviews with the young fans in line for concerts and other appearances, their love and enthusiasm for the group pure and infectious and, now, validated by history.
Not surprisingly, the real star of Eight Days a Week is the music. The documentary covers mostly the era before the Beatles began revolutionizing pop music and what an album could be, when they were just making perfect pop songs. For many, those early Beatles tunes are tattooed on the consciousness; hearing “If I Fell,” or “I’m Happy Just to Dance with You,” for the first time in a while is like a visit from a friend who has moved away but with whom no intimacy has been lost. That is the fundamental appeal of Eight Days a Week: the doc itself is easily dismissed, but its subjects are endlessly watchable.
Director: Ron Howard
Writer: Mark Monroe
Editor: Paul Crowder
Documentary/ English/ 97 minutes