The trick to making a good rock & roll movie is to get the music right. On that note, Backbeat is a resounding success. By having an all-star band of modern musicians (Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore on lead guitar, R.E.M.'s Mike Mills on bass, Nirvana's Dave Grohl on drums, Afghan Whigs' Greg Dulli singing John Lennon's parts, and Soul Asylum's Dave Pirner singing Paul McCartney's parts) record the songs on the Beatles' Hamburg set lists ("Long Tall Sally," "Please Mr. Postman," and "Rock and Roll Music" to name just three), the filmmakers have succeeded in approximating the enthusiasm, speed, and talent the Beatles themselves played with during this period. Ian Hart's performance captures the emotional tumultuousness as well as the genius of John Lennon. Watch the tricky scenes about two-thirds of the way through the film when John's wife Cynthia comes to visit. The two of them spend a day at the beach with Stewart and Astrid. These scenes are about how John and Cynthia do not want the same things in life. Hart communicates both the restless spirit and the self-hatred within John. He doesn't want to hurt Cynthia, but he knows he will leave her one day. Hart makes it easy to believe that such an emotionally complex man could make such a powerful sound while on stage. A person doesn't just hear great music. A person feels great music. The all-star band makes the music sound right. Hart's interpretation of John Lennon makes it look right. The film is not completely successful, but it triumphs in the area that is most important.
by Perry Seibert review