BACKBEAT is a thin and raucous vignette about the early days of the Beatles when they played the sleazy strip joints of Hamburg, Germany. A stormy triangle involving John Lennon, his best friend, Stuart Sutcliffe (the “fifth Beatle,” who did not stay with the group) and a beautiful German photographer, Astrid, generate a lot of soap-operatics, not to mention abusive language and steamy sex. Sutcliffe spies the beautiful Astrid across a smoke-filled bar, and it is lust at first sight. However, the affair greatly disturbs John Lennon and raises questions about a homosexual bond–which was vigorously denied. After much tempestuous carrying on, Sutcliffe leaves the band for Astrid and his art career, just as the Beatles’ popularity is taking off. As a sad coda to this decision, he dies of a cerebral hemorrhage shortly thereafter.
Much of the acting is very good, and Ian Hart, Gary Bakewell and Christy O’Neill convincingly resemble the young John, Paul and George, especially during their slick and energetic lip-syncing of pre-Lennon/McCartney rock tunes such as “Twist and Shout” and “Please Mr. Postman.” However, the soap operatics, grungy strip dancing, amoral sex, and abusive language (when it can be understood through the thick Liverpudlian accents) are all a major turnoff. BACKBEAT shows that talent does not guarantee wisdom.
(H, LLL, NNN, SSS, VV, A/D, M) Humanism; Approximately 65 obscenities; extensive female nudity throughout & brief rear male nudity; multiple explicit sexual episodes; two severe beatings; smoking, alcohol use throughout & stimulant drug use treated as humorous; and, direct views of man vomiting.