With a hefty running time of 208 minutes you’d have to be a fan to really appreciate Martin Scorcese’s extensive re- telling of the life and times of Beatles guitarist George Harrison. But I am and as I arrived at the Irish Film Institute to find a queue so long it reached the street outside, guessed everyone else attending was too. As a montage of Georges life the film was more assembled than directed, but credit where credit is due Scorcese really knows how to bring a person’s story to life. He takes us on a journey through the highs and occasional lows of George’s life and even with the long running time I was never bored or not interested in what was on the screen.
The film starts off with a typical George appearance, shy, elusive and humorous. It is set amongst the flowers of Georges sprawling garden in Friars Park, which features quite prominently in the film. With the introduction over, Scorcese takes us on a journey starting at the very beginning of George’s life. Scorcese takes us on a linear journey, dwelling on the major events and experiences in George’s life. He does all this without markedly signposting the passage of time at all throughout the film, which I think helped the flow of things. The film was packed full of rare photographs, interviews and videos that even I, a diehard fan had not seen before. It really gave an insight into what his life was like and what made him tick. There were quite a few humorous moments throughout the film and I really didn’t feel the time pass I was enjoying it so much.
The interviews in particular were very insightful, former band mates Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney give us a great insider’s account of key events along with some great stories about the George they knew and loved. George’s widow Gillian features prominently as well as his son Dhani who looks eerily like his father. There was also an unexpected appearance by the now incarcerated Phil Spector, whose ridiculous wig garnered quite a few laughs when he first appeared on screen. My one criticism would be that he dwells too much on George’s time with The Beatles and fails to include his output from 1973 to 1988 almost totally. He also fails to make reference at all to his comeback hit single “Got My Mind Set on You”, one of his biggest hits.
Many people may argue as to whether Harrison’s own legacy deserves such a tribute, especially as Scorcese’s tribute follows his previous work with big names such as The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. I think it’s a very interesting story that deserved to be told. We all know the story behind Lennon and McCartney but not many of us know the story behind Harrison. We are approaching the tenth anniversary of his untimely death, and I think that this film will serve as a great tribute to his memory.