The Beatles: Get Back

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
The Beatles: Get Back TV Poster Image
Smoking, drinking, extraordinary art in Beatles docuseries.

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age 6+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

One of the most surprising parts of this documentary series is that it reveals the hard work that lies behind seemingly effortless artistry as we watch musicians work together and rehearse. It also reveals the tension between longtime bandmates and how they struggle to communicate and appreciate each other's contributions. 

Positive Role Models

The members of the Beatles are all talented and hard-working; they're committed to working together and making beautiful music. In this documentary, Lennon emerges as snotty, McCartney as controlling, Harrison as frustrated, and Starr as a quiet blank slate who watches passively as his bandmates argue. The long history and affection between them is clear, though, as they share private jokes and mock each other and their work, sometimes gently, sometimes painfully. 

Diverse Representations

The Beatles are all White and so are the other professionals they're working with: the director, sound engineer, manager, etc. People of color are generally absent or marginalized: Asian woman Yoko Ono is treated as if she barely exists, Black musician Billy Preston comes in to contribute to the song "Get Back" but isn't included in the playful social vibe, though it's clear that the Beatles greatly respect his musicianship. At one point, the film's director mocks McCartney's beard and mockingly compares his appearance to men in traditional Orthodox Jewish dress. 

Violence

There are brief glimpses of violence in footage of unruly riots at band appearances, a KKK member threatening to stop a show, disenchanted fans burning records. 

Sex

Band members' wives and girlfriends visit the rehearsal space; we sometimes see partners exchanging casual kisses. There are a couple of brief and joking references to sex, with mentions of "hard-ons" and a "wet dream." 

Language

Occasional cursing includes "f--king," "s--t," "hell," Occasional vulgar language includes joking sexual references: "hard-on," "wet dream."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Members of The Beatles and others smoke cigarettes and cigars in vintage footage. People drink beer and wine, but nobody gets drunk. John Lennon and Yoko Ono were reportedly on heroin during these sessions, but it's difficult to tell, though we do see John staring into space frequently, and there's no reference made. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Beatles: Get Back is a three-part, nearly eight-hour look at the creation of the film and album Let It Be, with footage filmed in 1969 re-edited and enhanced by director Peter Jackson. For the most part, the series reveals a hard-working band beset with personal tensions, and we watch classic songs as they are born and then come into flower over the course of the band's rehearsals. Objectionable content is minor: The Beatles and others smoke cigarettes and cigars frequently and drink beer and wine. No one acts drunk on-screen. John Lennon and partner Yoko Ono later said they were using heroin during this period of time, and we see Lennon and Ono both looking spacey and falling asleep, but the drug use is not mentioned. Language is infrequent: "f--k," "f--king," "s--t," "hell." Romantic partners exchange casual kisses and there are a few vulgar sexual references: "hard-on," "wet dream." People of color are largely absent from this series, save for Lennon's partner Yoko Ono, a Japanese woman, and musician Billy Preston, a Black man. Neither are included socially or given much screentime in this documentary. At one point, McCartney is mocked by a comparison to the traditional dress of an Orthodox Jewish man. Jackson paid particular attention to the clarity of this series' audio, and voices are clear and distinct and songs positively beautiful.

User Reviews

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  • Kids say

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Teen, 13 years old Written byQuden December 22, 2021

Awesome

As an early Beatles fan I think that the age shouldn’t stop any body from watching Get Back.
Teen, 14 years old Written byzetryfie December 11, 2021

Absolutely amazing

Best thing to release all year.

What's the story?

In the waning years of The Beatles, the band broke a several-year ban on live performances with a public concert on a rooftop to be held January 30, 1969. Before the show, The Beatles convened rehearsals in a massive studio in England with an eye to writing and rehearsing at least 14 new songs to perform at the live show (which resulted in the album Let It Be), and allowed film cameras to capture the rehearsals as part of a planned TV documentary (which resulted in the movie Let It Be). More than 50 years later, THE BEATLES: GET BACK, directed by Peter Jackson, shows fans exactly how the biggest band in the world came together to sing, noodle around on their instruments, argue, break up, and ultimately stick resentfully together for two more albums. 

Is it any good?

In Peter Jackson's hands, this three-part documentary is too long and winding for all but the biggest Beatles fans, but it's also fascinating, funny, and as sad as watching a marriage implode. The numbing length, all 7 hours and 48 minutes of it, is perhaps not surprising from a guy who managed to turn 304-page book The Hobbit into a three-part film series, but it's daunting nonetheless to those who aren't already fervent Beatles lovers. Going into Get Back with some background on the band is also wise: Viewers who know that John Lennon and Yoko Ono are struggling with a heroin addiction can better understand Lennon's icy vibe and Ono's blank stare, while those who understand that George Harrison came to the rehearsals inspired by recent jam sessions with American musicians can more easily grasp the frustration that ultimately leads to his quitting the band, live and on film (he was persuaded to return, yet the band broke up a year later, anyway). 

But even those who come to Get Back without an understanding of the underlying tensions can enjoy watching the world's most famous musicians -- young, faces unlined, impossibly cool in '60s fashions -- breathe life into now-legendary songs like "Don't Let Me Down." Gathered together in a circle in the cavernous space they've set up, they try out guitar chords and harmonies, change up lyrics, hoot at or approve each other's contributions. It's incredible watching a classic song be born, and Get Back looks and sounds great, too: Under Jackson's masterful guidance, the original 16mm footage has been enhanced and blown up to the proper aspect ratio for widescreen movies; the focus and colors sparkle and we can see every detail. The soundtrack, too, has been remastered with advanced audio technology that make it possible to hear every voice even when everyone's talking at once, and renders the Beatles famous sound, even when they're just screwing around, almost as beautiful as it is on their albums. It all adds up to a sensory experience that's simply a delight, even if it takes its time concluding. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the picture Get Back paints of a famous band. Did you learn new things about The Beatles by watching? Did you learn anything that surprised you? Dismayed you? Gave you a different viewpoint on a band that broke up more than 50 years ago? 

  • At the time this footage was filmed, it was unusual to allow cameras access to private moments with bands/celebrities. How has media attention to stars changed since the time period presented here? How different is the footage in Get Back when compared to reality shows starring bands or celebrities? 

  • Documentaries usually purport to show the truth, but the very presence of cameras and recording equipment changes what the people being recorded are willing to do and say. How close can documentaries get to the real truth? How much truth do you think Get Back manages to capture? 

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