A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
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.
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.
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Violence & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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."
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Occasional cursing includes "f--king," "s--t," "hell," Occasional vulgar language includes joking sexual references: "hard-on," "wet dream."
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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.
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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.
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.
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