From the opening frame of A Hard Day’s Night, the screen pulsates with energy. The Beatle’s first foray into the medium of film is exciting, original, and simply takes your breath away.
That opening sequence consists of the band running through the streets of England, being chased by crazed fans, and eventually making there way to a train. The title song blasts as we see the action and from that moment on a smile never left my face. It is so refreshing to see superstars inhabit the screen with their own personalities and not be annoyed by them. John, Paul, George, and Ringo have so much fun running around in this movie that it is almost impossible not to have a good time with them.
Just for the record, the plot of this film revolves around the group as they prepare for a television concert. Paul brings his grandfather along, but the old man continually gets into trouble. Even though the plot is so paper thin, the anti-establishment mentality and feeling in the picture carries it beyond anything you can imagine. In 1964 when the movie was released, rock and roll was not taken very seriously as an art form and the musicians were taken even less seriously. Sure, teenage girls loved The Beatles, but who cares what teenage girls like?
Celebrities were supposed to love being interviewed, dress appropriately, and act according to societies preconceived notions. A Hard Day’s Night showed how little the greatest rock and roll band of all time appreciated the tight boundaries they were supposedly confined in. Whenever there is an opportunity, the band runs out of confinement (indoors) and enjoy themselves in the freedom of the outdoors. One scene in particular stands out. When the boys are supposed to be getting ready for rehearsal, they sneak out of a side door and play games in an open field. The scene is played in fast-motion, signifying how much faster and better freedom is than the slow boredom of protocol. It ends with an older man telling them that the field is private property, another instance of society ruining a good time.
Probably the most notable scene comes at the end of the film when The Beatles actually play the television concert in front of a live audience. Director Richard Lester inter-cuts the energetic and joyous faces of the fab-four with the screaming frenzy of the fans in what is one of the most memorable moments in cinema. Not many movies can create such energy and excitement. One girl in the audience even cries and continually yells “George”, seeming to have lost almost all control of her emotions.
What The Beatles did for rock and roll and what this film did for the rock and roll movie was change the game. Boys started growing their hair out because The Beatles had long hair. Bands started trying to be anti-establishment until that became the norm (which means it’s no longer that anti-establishment or crazy). Everybody wanted to be care-free and happy, which brought about the hippie generation. Some would argue that almost all of these things stem from this film and this band. Talk about influential. I will end this review with a quote from Roger Ebert’s review of the movie in his Great Movie section:
“The innocence of the Beatles and A Hard Day’s Night was of course not to last. Ahead was the crushing pressure of being the most popular musical group of all time, and the dalliance with the mystic east, and the breakup, and the druggy fallout from the ’60s, and the death of John Lennon. The Beatles would go through a long summer, a disillusioned fall, a tragic winter. But, oh, what a lovely springtime. And it’s all in a movie.”